Campaign Trail: Dole fuels nutrition mission with meme-inspired ‘Hold My Fruit Bowl’

Linda J. Dodson

Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.

To draw attention to the healthy benefits of fruit, Dole Packaged Foods puts a whimsical and kid-friendly spin on the “Hold My Beer” meme with its latest ad campaign. “Hold My Fruit Bowl” leans into lighthearted humor as its ads liken the nutrition of fruit to gaining superpowers, showing kids fueled by snacking on Dole Fruit Bowls as they confidently one-up adults and find their way out of problematic situations.

In the first spot, entitled “Lost,” a scout troop is lost in the woods. A brave camper declares, “hold my fruit bowl,” and calls for a hawk to direct them back to safety, showing up an overly confident peer and mystified troop leader. The other new spot features a girl skipping rocks with her father. After saying, “hold my fruit bowl,” she hands her snack to her mom and effortlessly slings a stone to the other side of the world, striking an Arctic ice fisherman.

This is the third in a series of fruit bowl-based ads from Dole, all of which have employed a light, humorous tone during uncertain times. Running through March, “Hold My Fruit Bowl” builds on the past two efforts from 2021 but takes a fresh creative tack to reach parents of school-age children by showcasing kids.

While riffing on the “hold my beer” meme limits the campaign to certain countries like the U.S., Dole’s approach for its latest effort allows the brand to showcase family moments that often go unmentioned, according to Orzse Hodi, Dole Packaged Foods’ vice president of marketing, Americas.

“We have the opportunity to bring humor into those pivotal moments when your kids start challenging you. Any parent can relate to that,” Hodi said. “Having those specific cultural moments of connection with people through humor and family is the most fun that we can do at Dole.”

A fresh tack to empowerment

January represents somewhat of a second back-to-school season, with parents restocking pantries with healthy snacks following the holidays, per Hodi. To meet that push, “Hold My Fruit Bowl” launched earlier this month on linear TV — mostly the Food Network, TLC, HGTV and MTV — as well as on streaming platforms like Amazon Prime Video, Hulu and Roku. Versions of the creative will also appear as ads on Spotify, social media and paid search. Dole in two weeks will debut a giveaway campaign on Instagram encouraging people to share their accomplishments after snacking on a fruit bowl.

Extending fresh campaign content into February, Dole is working with online show Recess Therapy on a custom video, according to Hodi.

“Once all those social elements come into play, let’s see how the consumers react. And then we’re ready to extend [the campaign] if it has legs,” Hodi said.

It’s Dole’s first work from agency Erich and Kallman and marks a somewhat softer approach to Dole’s form of communicating to families. Its “Normal-ish” campaign from January 2021 focused on the struggles of resuming post-pandemic life. One spot in the campaign showed a couple whose plans for a romantic night out are foiled by miscommunicating over hiring a babysitter, and they end up sharing fruit cups by candlelight in their kitchen. In 2020, the brand’s “Quaran-Tensions” effort depicted a couple who released frustrations related to being cooped up by saying “fruit bowl” where they might otherwise curse.

“We are in a continuum of a journey that we started about a year and a half ago in the middle of the pandemic. We really tried to push our campaigns in a fun light, showing moments where kids’ daily lives are included,” Hodi said. “I think in this campaign, particularly, what we’re trying to do is show perspective from the children, which is new to Dole, and those moments of parenting and empowerment that healthy snacks can bring.”

“The pandemic has disrupted our kids’ lives so much. This is about inspiring youth and showing them that anything is possible as they’re stuck at home or adjusting to different school schedules.”

Orzse Hodi

Vice President of Marketing, Dole Packaged Foods

Hodi’s team and agency partner considered extending the “Quaran-Tensions” and “Normal-ish” campaigns, but ultimately chose to shift gears away from depicting parents making choices for their children. “Hold My Fruit Bowl” is grounded in Dole’s insight that about 60% of kids specifically request fruit bowls, according to Hodi.

“I think that is a very empowering story to tell about these kids and our brand,” she said. “The pandemic has disrupted our kids’ lives so much. This is about inspiring youth and showing them that anything is possible as they’re stuck at home or adjusting to different school schedules.”

Fueling sustainability, reducing hunger

“Hold My Fruit Bowl” reinforces Dole’s broader mission as a nutrition-forward company selling plant-based products. In February 2021, the company retooled the classic nutrition facts label to shed light on food insecurity in the U.S. by projecting “malnutrition label” billboards onto iconic buildings in Los Angeles, New York and Baltimore. Months later in April, Dole teamed with artist David Datuna on a nonfungible token (NFT) aiming to boost awareness of food insecurity and malnutrition while raising money for nonprofits.

Before that, Dole in 2020 pledged ambitious commitments toward creating a better world around nutrition, sustainability and shared values. This includes goals like boosting access to sustainable nutrition, cutting food waste, eliminating fossil-fuel based packaging by 2025 and working toward net-zero carbon emissions.

“When we look at the brand personality, or what we’re trying to communicate, is really empowerment through nutrition and helping [people] make the right choices with a lighthearted approach,” Hodi said. “That is the whole premise of the campaign and the whole brand equity that we’re trying to uphold.”

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