Ken Romanzi

COO-domestic beverages and foods, Ocean Spray

By Published on .

Big idea: Reintroduction of the cranberry to America

How it came to him: By way of a cranberry bog

How it's changing his business: Reinvigorating it

Ken Romanzi doesn't have to reach too far back in his memory to locate the biggest idea of his career-he's in the middle of enjoying its success.

Charged a year and a half ago with reinvigorating Ocean Spray's flagging domestic sales, the chief operating officer of the company's domestic beverage and foods business found inspiration in the annual cranberry harvest, when growers flood cranberry bogs with water, creating a waist-high sea of crimson.

Beyond aesthetics, what got him was the realization that a good portion of Americans live nowhere near cranberry bogs-it's easy, from Kansas, to ignore the little red fruit in all its guises. "The idea was to reintroduce the cranberry to America," Mr. Romanzi says. And reintroduce it they did. Last fall Ocean Spray built a cranberry bog in the middle of Rockefeller Center, landing two segments on the "Today" show.

Ocean Spray also launched its "Straight From the Bog" campaign, developed by Arnold Worldwide, Boston, which features two cranberry growers (portrayed by actors) standing in a bog and discussing the merits of cranberries and Ocean Spray products. The company plans to make the Rockefeller Center harvest an annual event and to add cities each year, keeping the cranberry in the public consciousness. "People don't get sick of pumpkins at Halloween and turkey at Thanksgiving. Since the cranberry is only harvested once a year, we want to make as big a deal out of it as we possibly can," Mr. Romanzi says. Results so far: an unprecedented increase in brand awareness and cranberry consumption.

Not all big ideas are carried on a ocean of red, of course, but Mr. Romanzi believes that most faltering brands can enjoy new life if marketers go back to the product's, er, roots and search for inspiration there. In addition, he says, looking for ideas in unlikely places can yield new products; soon after arriving at Ocean Spray Mr. Romanzi invited the R&D group to present new-product ideas; several have morphed into products. Finally, he says, good marketers need to live with a "restless dissatisfaction in where they are." The bog campaign plans to head for Chicago next year. "They turn the river green for St. Patrick's Day," Mr. Romanzi says. "Why can't we turn it red for the cranberry harvest?"
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