How you do market the unmarketable? A team of NY executives had to figure just that out when they were presented with a challenge: make broccoli appealing to the public.


The first thing we should mention is that this is indeed a fake campaign, brought to the ad agency by an author (rightly) concerned that processed food gets all the marketing while healthy vegetables are left on their own with no marketing muscle to help them find their way into the refrigerators of Americans.


The execs immediately faced some turbulence in developing a concept of how to make broccoli marketable (after all, it’s a vegetable most Americans will only tolerate when it’s smothered by cheese…).  After extensive research, they still didn’t have any worthwhile ideas.


Then, when they were randomly reading through some vegetable polls (yes, these exist), the noticed that broccoli (#20) was still doing rather well compared to kale (#47). This was curious, since kale has had a moment in the last year, thrown into the spotlight by health food gurus as some kind of miracle-vegetable.


The marketers decided to “pick a fight” with kale, using the vegetable’s recent popularity to steal some of the spotlight for broccoli. They used slogans like “Eat Fad Free: Broccoli vs. Kale” and “Broccoli: Now 43 Percent Less Pretentious than Kale”.


Another phase of the campaign was used to hit the non-Whole Foods demographic (who, presumably, wasn’t aware of kale’s popularity). The marketers executed this portion of the plan by reframing broccoli from unappealing health food to a sort of ultimate alpha-vegetable, this time with slogans like “Goes great with a side of steak”.


In all, we think they did a stellar job, and this humorous exercise can teach you three essential things about marketing strategy:


Divide and Conquer


Notice that the first thing the marketers did was segment the potential customer base into two key demographics (the health-food conscious and the average American consumer). They then designed two distinct approaches. Often, when the knowledge base of your demographic groups differs, you will have to approach each group with a different marketing approach that will resonate with that respective audience.


Step Out from the Herd


The marketing for your product should always highlight how it differs from all the other products in the same category. Every marketing message is essentially a “Pick ME!” message in its distilled form. In this case, the marketers created a macho personality for broccoli to make it stand out from the rest of the vegetable lineup, essentially building an argument for why consumers should pick broccoli over every other vegetable.


Tap into the Culture


The fake battle with kale was genius marketing. It taps into a recent phenomenon, using its popularity to draw attention to the marketing product through a direct comparison. The strategy works because it’s very hard to get the kind of attention that a cultural craze provides. In this case, kale had become something of a cultural phenomenon. The marketers tapped into the public’s subconscious, setting up the product as a worthy adversary. At the same time, they showed that broccoli’s brand is hip enough to be ironic about the kale cultural phenomenon, adding additional credibility.


Whatever your opinion of the cruciferous vegetable, this case presents a great example of how to create a unique brand for a very tough to market product. If you’re struggling with similar branding issues, the strategies above should help you turn things around. And remember: no one, under any circumstances, should ever have to eat kale.

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