Craig Stephen, N2N Global
Craig Stephen, N2N Global

Recently the World Health Organization published a report warning cancer worldwide is growing at an alarming pace.

Some have called it a “tidal wave” of cancer, when you combine the increase in incidents and the escalating cost to treat the disease.

The report states new cases will skyrocket from 14 million in 2012 to 22 million during the next two decades, and deaths from cancer will increase 60%, to 13 million a year. Most affected will be the developing countries of Africa, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America.

But in spite of these grim predictions, there are a few findings providing some reasons for optimism.

The report states more than 50% of all cancer is preventable. In the U.S., the risk of dying from cancer has gone down, and the No. 1 reason is prevention.

Smoking rates are down considerably in the U.S. According to the American Cancer Society, tobacco is linked to 33% of all cancers.

A close second cause of cancers, at 28% of all reported cases, is a combination of bad diet, obesity and physical inactivity. There you have it — another reason to eat your fruits and vegetables.

But, do we really need another reason? We could just add it to the list of things we already know — fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. They help reduce heart disease, lower blood pressure and reduce obesity.

They are high in fiber and essential minerals — and on and on. With all these great reasons, why don’t we eat more fruits and vegetables?

It’s time the produce industry looks at different ways to get this message across. Traditionally, we have messaged these types of new findings by appealing to our consumers’ logical thinking. We think if we tell them these new facts, they’ll understand and, in turn, buy more bananas, apples and brussels sprouts.

We’ll print it on packaging, point-of-sale materials and on ad copy. We’ll rally behind 5 a Day, Half a Plate and a host of other ways to deliver information to the logical consumer.

Every year, companies spend millions of dollars trying to understand what they can do to make consumers buy more.

They’ll do analysis, they’ll do research, they’ll test messages, they’ll produce new creative content, and they will ring up billable hours. But the simple answer is people buy what they want, not what they need.

It’s been documented that emotions drive about 80% of American consumer choices. The right side of our brain is winning the decision-making battle at the grocery store. So let’s start marketing to the winning side of the brain.

Another recent event was the Super Bowl and all the great new commercials.

While the game was less than exciting, many people thought the ads were top notch. Ad Week rated Budweiser’s “Puppy Love” and Cheerio’s “Gracie” the top two ads.

Interestingly enough, neither of these two commercials mentioned anything about their product. They were effective by tugging on our emotions.

The produce industry has an opportunity to embark on a different approach to appeal to consumers to “Eat Your Fruits and Veggies.”

Through the Produce Marketing Association’s partnership with Sesame Workshop and the Partnership for a Healthier America, the fresh produce industry has new tools, on a broad basis, to increase consumption by changing consumer behavior.

Creative programs using the “Sesame Street” characters can not only be informative, but fun. This approach to emotion-based messaging can tap into consumers’ right brains and help drive purchases and consumption.

But, let’s not stop there.

“Sesame Street” could be just one part of a larger overall movement to increase produce consumption. Today’s engaged consumer is more likely to make a purchase recommended by her social network. We need to become part of those conversations too, with trendy right-now messaging.

Let’s try to make “eating your fruits and veggies” what consumers want, not what they need. But if that’s too logical, we can again create informative messages explaining the World Health Organization’s new report.

And, what’s the definition of insanity?

Craig Stephen is chief strategy officer of N2N Global, Longwood, Fla.

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