From left, CeCe Quinn, Nikki Ingley, Rae Pardini Matson and Dani Muller with RPM Public Relations coordinated with Model Meals to market National Avocado Day. Photo contributed.
Are you prepared for “National Strawberry Rhubarb Wine Day” on July 20? What about “National Thermal Engineer Day” or “National Be Someone Day” this month?
For businesses, what about “Get to Know Your Customers Day” on the third Thursday of each quarter?
Social media feeds and talk shows regularly use national day designations as general interest fodder. But when a local marketing firm and a meal prep company in Southern California got together to create National Avocado Day on July 31, they found something that expanded their marketing reach more than a ten-fold, connecting millions of consumers, national chains and primetime media outlets.
In January 2013, the National Day Calendar began as a blog of North Dakota-based founder Marlo Anderson. He researched the long forgotten or obscure national days the country created over its 237 years of existence.
Anderson researched the roots of days like “National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day” that began in the mid-19th century.
In its first month of operation, the website had 1,000 views. In June, it had 100,000 views. Soon, celebrities and influencers including Ellen Degeneres, Jimmy Kimmel and correspondents with the “Today Show” and “Fox & Friends” signed up for the evening email newsletters to find the next day’s talking points.
“It would be hard for me to tell you which national and local talk shows don’t use us,” Anderson said. “We have over 20,000 media outlets that follow us directly now.”
When meal-prep service Model Meals contracted with Fresno-based RPM Public Relations, it was only natural that they should focus a marketing campaign around one of the Model Meals founders’ favorites — avocados.
The avocado has been touted for its healthy fats and nutrient-packed fruit.
The only problem was avocados didn’t have a day.
“It seems like a natural fit that we would do something fun promotionally surrounding that day for them,” said Rae Pardini Matson, founder of RPM. “That’s when we realized it didn’t exist. So, we created it.”
National Day Calendar gets about 20,000 applications a year, Anderson said. Annually, they may approve 20-30. There were about 1,250 days on the calendar when he started it in 2013. Today there are roughly 1,500.
Matson said she wanted the holiday to coincide with avocado season. The process took about six months, from application to approval. The four-person committee has to review the holiday and unanimously agree on its relevance. The holiday was approved, making its first official appearance in 2017.
Despite the green light, the word still needs to be spread.
“We established this day, that’s all fine and good, but it’s pointless if nobody knows about it,” Matson said.
Their efforts included social media, but the major focus was traditional media. Print and magazine outlets such as “Men’s Fitness,” “People Magazine” and “USA Today” touted the holiday. Even “Good Morning America” picked up the story with a segment in celebration of the healthful fruit.
But by the holiday’s second year, the labors of their harvest came to fruition.
Chipotle had picked up on the holiday, offering “guac” as an extra that day.
A spokesperson from Chipotle said the company regularly coordinates with unique holidays to offer deals.
“We were just like floored and very ecstatic about that, because it showed that they were obviously acknowledging the day that we created, which was really cool,” Matson said.
The event was such a success that Chipotle’s website shutdown from the traffic and the holiday was extended to the next day.
Ellen Degeneres also did a segment having her producer jump into a bowl of guacamole dressed as a chip.
Worldwide internet metrics showed a significant jump that year. Reach alone increased nearly three-fold.
In 2017, National Avocado Day garnered 9,565 posts with a reach of 311.99 million. It got 111 mentions in the press.
By 2018, there were 90,321 posts with a reach of 857.67 million and 117 mentions in the press, according to RPM research.
Also in 2018, #nationalavocadoday was the top trending hashtag that day, according to Anderson.
Competition is the pits
For California avocadoes, exposure means the ability to compete with the production powerhouse of Mexico, according to Jan DeLyser, vice president of marketing with the Irvine-based California Avocado Commission.
Mexico’s 85% market share makes it the most powerful exporter with other countries such as Peru, Chile and more recently, Colombia not even close.
Avocados take 12-18 months to develop on the tree. With last year’s record-breaking heat wave of 30-plus days exceeding triple digits, the California fruit will suffer this season for it, DeLyser said.
While most avocados “grow where we want to live,” DeLyser said, along coastal California from San Diego to Monterey Bay, Tulare County still hangs on with no more than 200 acres dedicated to the tree. In the past, growers were able to make the Zutano variety of avocado thrive in the area, but production has declined.
The industry has been able to capitalize in recent years off of July 4, Cinco de Mayo and Memorial Day. Even the Super Bowl has been a focus for marketing despite the fruit being out-of-season.
California growers, however, want to be able to push their product when their own fruit comes off the tree from May to September, and another marketing event in July, like National Avocado Day may prove to be what they need.