In its early years, the primary problem facing the California citrus industry was an oversupply of fruit. By 1907, California was producing five times the quantity of oranges it had been fifteen years earlier, and orange production was continuing to grow as newly-planted orange groves began to bear fruit. In response, in 1907 the CFGE approved the first-ever large-scale advertising campaign aimed at advertising a perishable commodity. The March 1907 campaign, which marketed oranges to Iowans as “healthy” and “summery,” resulted in a 50% increase of orange sales in that state. It also launched the Sunkist brand: the ad agency Lord & Thomas originally proposed using the adjective “sun-kissed” to describe the CFGE oranges; the word eventually used in the campaign was Sunkist, made up by the agency so it would be easier to defend afterwards as a trademark.
n an effort to distinguish Sunkist oranges from others, the CFGE wrapped its oranges in paper stamped with the Sunkist brand. But in 1909, after Sunkist learned that merchants were selling non-Sunkist oranges as Sunkist, it began to offer consumers a free Sunkist-branded spoon in exchange for mailing in twelve Sunkist wrappers. One million spoons were claimed in the first year of the promotion, further establishing the brand in consumers’ minds and giving merchants a reason to want to display Sunkist oranges in their original wrappers. By 1910, the promotion had resulted in Sunkist becoming the world’s largest purchaser of cutlery
The success of early campaigns prompted Sunkist to invest heavily in advertising, and in coming decades the brand was advertised in magazines and on radio, on billboards, streetcars and railroad cars, on the sides of speedboats, in school curricula and essay contests, and in pamphlets distributed in doctors’ offices. Its messaging aimed to reposition oranges in the minds of consumers. Rather than being seen as a luxury to be enjoyed only at Christmas, Sunkist wanted people to see oranges as essential for good health, and to eat one every day
Sunkist also invested in marketing fresh-squeezed orange juice and lemonade as superior alternatives to “artificial” beverages such as Coca-Cola. By the mid-1930s, one Sunkist orange in five was being consumed in juice form, often at soda fountains, and Sunkist juice was the second-most-popular soda fountain drink, after Coca-Cola
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