I’m going to let you in on a little secret.
I volunteer to bring cranberry relish to holiday dinners. It’s the easiest to cook on the list of dishes on our family table, and I’m a fan of fruit.
So last Thanksgiving, Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Club promotion intrigued me. How could a brand with a famous seasonal product create a year-round club? Since it was free, I signed up.
Seven months later, I realized the Cranberry Club was just a newsletter.
Although the Cranberry Club hasn’t delivered on its community promise, it has provided some great newsletters that offer great lessons for content marketers of any B2B or B2C brand, especially those offering seasonal products or annual events.
Rhythm your content
Ocean Spray sent a welcome message and four newsletters between my sign-up date (November 23 – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving in the US) and December 31, 2022. Starting in January, it sent an email once per month.
Makes sense. I’m not as interested in cranberries in January, February, March, etc., so the content isn’t as relevant. Although industry best practices indicate the importance of sending newsletters at regular intervalsit doesn’t necessarily work for companies whose buying cycles are rooted in the calendar.
Adapt your content to the product calendar
Ocean Spray does a good job of adapting the content to the distribution time of the newsletter. In January, for example, he reacted to diet season and being healthier with his diet cranberry drink entry. In February, the newsletter wrote about winter weather: “If Ocean Spray® can make a diet cranberry juice drink with 5 calories and full flavor, then you can work from home in real pants. #AllThatPower.
(I wonder if he used snowy language for all recipients. If so, that’s a mistake because snow doesn’t fall in many geographies in February.)
(Additional note: I’m not a fan of brands that create new words like “cran” instead of “can” and “cranfident” instead of “confidence”. It’s a bit too exaggerated, too promotional for me.)
In March, Ocean Spray held a contest for its new products. In April, however, Ocean Spray seems to have run out of juice. Its main image was a product photo of its Craisins, and the text was entirely promotional: “Flowers for spring? Innovative. Spring salad with Craisins? Revolutionary. Take your classic spring recipes from basic to bold with Craisins® Dried Cranberries. Because they simply make it different.
See? It’s the whole production promotion. Even the writing lacks finesse. As a member of the Cranberry Club I was disappointed and would have unsubscribed if not for my interest in content marketing.
deliver the expected
Breaking out of the standard content box is fine as long as you don’t go so far as to disappoint the audience. In a food company like Ocean Spray, subscribers would probably expect revenue. The Cranberry Club does not disappoint. He shares unexpected drink recipes – sultry sunset sangria, cran-mango™ margarita, pink lemon candy and mixed berry smoothie, only one of which even mentions an Ocean Spray product in the name.
Don’t spill all the beans (or cranberries)
Ocean Spray wants its Cranberry Club members to visit its website, where more interesting content — not just production promotion — awaits. It incorporates a call to action for each entry in the newsletter.
This article introduces readers to the story of the company, which began with three maverick farmers and grew into a national cranberry collective of over 700 farmers. It’s a smart strategy – in addition to inviting them to “learn more”, they tell brand history from a more compelling human point of view.
Here’s another example where they admit that cranberry flavor might not be everyone’s first choice.
Ocean Spray then sends those who appreciate its superfruit status into a website with more information on the mighty berry.
ADVICE: Acknowledging that not everyone likes your product is helpful because readers will recognize that your brand lives in the real world, not the promotional world where everyone likes the product.
Personalize in unexpected places
McKinsey Research finds that 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% are frustrated when this doesn’t happen.
A lot of brands think they created this personalization by adding “Dear (FIRST NAME)” at the top of your newsletter. Ocean Spray does not make this traditional custom insert. He surprises the subscriber by using his name in content, such as this excerpt on skull facts that included the final lines: “Potential little puckers possess some weird nutrition, including powerful nutrients, vitamins and antioxidants that support all of this. Bladder stuff. Gut stuff. Heart stuff. (And so much more.) Guts got you, Ann.
In another newsletter, he offers a new flavor of his drinks and includes the phrase: “Real fruit juice of cranberries, lemons and raspberries, we got you, Ann”, followed by a winking emoji. eye.
By embedding the recipient’s name throughout the content, you’re more likely to grab their attention as they browse through the content.
Create an experience better than Ocean Spray
OK, that’s all Ocean Spray does with its Cranberry Club. You will notice, however, that this is the club’s newsletter. And frankly, it’s disappointing. I never really joined a club. THE welcome message when I joined the Cranberry Club told me that. Although he refers to me as a “certified member of our spunky family”, this family never gets together – not even during the holidays. The opening email simply regurgitates what I’ll find in the newsletter and lists the social networks I can follow.
It’s a big miss. Ocean Spray has chosen a word – club – which means community. Many people sign up and expect to join a community, not just subscribe to a newsletter. Imagine what Ocean Spray could do by hosting a private community where Cranberry Club members can get together, talk about cranberries, access special cooking demonstrations, and share their lives.
Oh, in case you thought the #AllThatPower hashtag could create a sense of community on social media. This is not the case. First, the hashtag is generic and does not connect to the brand (Ocean Spray) or its main product (cranberries). #CranberryClub would have been a much better choice. Second, few people use the hashtag for anything other than product promotion (no doubt arranged by Ocean Spray because who else would remember the hashtag.)
This Bright America Instagram post uses the hashtag to highlight the company to recognize Ocean Spray’s commitment to sustainability:
When revisiting your newsletter, pay attention to Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Club newsletter. Determine the best pace for your audience’s buying cycle. Deliver what they expect and what may surprise them. Create calls to action to let subscribers learn more about the story. But whatever you do, don’t call it a club.
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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute