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Musselman's Ads Parallel Raising Apples and Children

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Musselman’s is playing the emotion card against larger rival Mott’s with a new marketing effort this week that equates an apple grower’s love and care for his crop with that of a mother’s nurture of her child.

The analogy is a new one for the applesauce brand, which is part of a grower-owned cooperative that’s managed by Knouse Foods. The effort builds on a campaign the company launched in November 2008. That effort, which carried the tagline “Grower-Owned Since 1949” was meant to differentiate itself from Mott’s. The message that many consumers derived from those ads—which marked the brand’s first return to television advertising in three years—was that Musselman’s was local, all-American and a higher-quality product, said Bob Fisher, marketing vp at Knouse Foods.

Now the company is looking to forge a deeper emotional connection with moms, the target consumer for many of its apple-based products. The campaign, in “year one, was really about raising awareness of who [Musselman’s] was, in a sense, and now [we have to talk about] why we matter to that audience in a more relevant way,” said Jay Giesen, executive creative director at Pittsburgh-based Brunner, the agency that created the campaign.

TV ads launching this week harken back to the brand’s prior campaign, via a tagline that says “Proud to be grower-owned.” But the spots also introduce a new element. In one, titled “Pop-Up,” a mother tells the story of how a Musselman’s apple—and its end product, applesauce—came to be by reading a storybook aloud to her child. “This is the story of an apple that grew in a beautiful orchard, that was lovingly cared for each day  and made into applesauce for families,” the woman reads. “Every apple in Musselman’s applesauce shares this story, and the Musselman’s family of growers is very proud to share it,” she continues.

Another spot, dubbed “Hands,” builds on that same theme by drawing the parallel between how a mother uses her hands to take care of her children (whether it’s putting a bandage on an injured knee or adjusting a flower on an outfit) to the love and affection a grower puts into his apples.

Musselman’s didn’t disclose spending on the effort, but the new ads mark its latest appearance on TV since 2008. The ads will run through the remainder of the year, and there is also a site refresh planned, Fisher said.

Neeti Newaskar, a Bruner account planner who oversaw consumer insights on the initiative, said the effort stemmed from the observation that moms play a variety of different roles in life. “She is the caretaker and crisis averter in the family, but we are really appealing to her role as nurturer and caretaker,” she said, adding that the ads appeal more to her “traditional side.”

One of the aha moments behind the ads centered on the idea that mom “is making an investment in her children’s long-term future and good health and that was similar to the care and attention [Musselman’s growers] put into growing the best apples,” Newaskar said.

Meanwhile, in 2009, Dr Pepper Snapple Group-owned Mott’s broke its first TV spots in 10 years via a campaign from Laird+Partners, Los Angeles, starring Desperate Housewives star Marcia Cross in which the actress served up juicy nutritional tidbits such as, “Every glass of Mott’s apple juice has two servings of real fruit inside.”