Ad Report Card

We Love Emerald Nuts, Too!

Check yourself, Planters. There’s a new nut in town.

The spot: A Scandinavian fellow patiently coaches an archery student. Voice-over: “Encouraging Norwegians love Emerald Nuts.” A pair of men named Norman shout about how great they are. “Egotistical Normans love Emerald Nuts.” A girl in a Cornhuskers outfit listens in on a nearby conversation. “Eavesdropping Nebraskans love Emerald Nuts.” You get the idea—there’s a whole series of these spots, all revolving around the initials “E.N.” (Click here to see the ads.)

Check yourself, Planters. There’s a new nut on the scene.

Diamond of California, a cooperative of 1,800 walnut growers, has long done solid business with its line of “culinary nuts.” These are the nuts that come in Plain Jane packaging at the supermarket. They’re used in cookie recipes favored by retired women. It’s a nice little niche. But Diamond wants more.

They see huge opportunity in the “snack nut” category—nuts you might buy at the Kwik-E-Mart to scarf by the handful. Why? Two reasons. First, nuts are back. Atkins dieters made them hip again. And second, Planters is the only major player in this category. Planters has massive market share and no big national competitors.

Enter Emerald Nuts. Diamond created the brand this year and launched the national ad campaign in August. Since the brand is starting from scratch, the goal with this initial campaign is just to get the brand name out there. I think they’ve done that.

There’s no better way to make us remember a name than to shape the entire campaign around the name itself. Each ad hammers home “E.N.” for “Emerald Nuts.” I can’t think of a campaign more likely to “get credit” for its spots—the mnemonic ensures that we’ll never forget which product these ads are for.

And the ads themselves are goofy and appealing. My favorites: “Elegant Naysayers” (a teenager wears a frilly, aristocratic costume—and hates everything) and “Evil Navigators” (a guy in the passenger’s seat gives directions from a map … and then calmly spins his head 360 degrees, a la The Exorcist, before grabbing a handful of nuts from a jar on the dashboard).

But the true genius here isn’t the content of the ads. It’s the length, the abundance, and the careful scheduling of the ads. According to Diamond’s vice president of marketing, Sandy McBride, once the “E.N.” idea was settled on, everything else fell into place. They decided to run a whole lot of 15-second ads instead of a few 30-second ones. In part this was because the joke is so simple, it can’t fill even 30 seconds of airtime. But Diamond also knew that, with a limited budget, it would get much more bang for its buck. There are 15 different spots in the campaign right now. (McBride says they shot them all together, in three days.) The diversity helps prevent ad fatigue, where we’ve seen the same spot so many times that we tune it out.

Finally, the scheduling coup de grâce: Diamond chose to regularly air two different spots during the same commercial break—one at the very start of the break, one at the very end. It didn’t cost anything extra to secure these slots, and it was easy for the networks to carry out. As a result, we get tickled by the first spot and, after we’re given a minute or two to ponder it, we’re hit with a second spot straight away to cement the brand name in our minds.

The only trade-off with hitting so hard on brand awareness is that Diamond doesn’t show us why we’d want to eat their nuts instead of Planters’, or why we’d want to eat any nuts at all for that matter. There’s no focus whatsoever on product attributes: It’s not clear that these nuts are tasty, or healthy, or affordable. But Diamond figures this is a job for subsequent campaigns, once the name is out there.

Of course, even these 15 different, quick-hitting spots will grow familiar and tune-out-able before long. Diamond says it will advertise during the next Super Bowl, and surely it’ll need a new set of E.N.s by then. In fact, the entire shtick will wear thin within six months or so, I think. But not before every man, woman, and child is excruciatingly aware of the name “Emerald Nuts.”

Grade: A-. Engaging Nut-marketers.

Update, Oct. 29, 2004: After this piece was posted, Diamond contacted me to let me know they are actually just considering advertising during the Super Bowl. The Emerald Nuts press kit that presented the ad buy as a done deal was in error. Just so you all know.