Monday, June 25, 2007

Boiled Peanut Marketing

I mostly grew up in the Northern Florida, which means I grew up eating something called "boiled peanuts." I was seven or eight before I realized they were boiled. We called them "bawld peanuts."

Boiled peanuts are green peanuts boiled in salt water for hours. The salt seeps in through the shell and gives the peanut an unusual flavor. If you grew up eating boiled peanuts you know how good they are. Boiled peanuts are one of the most addictive foods I know. Once you start eating them, it's hard to stop before you run out.

Boiled peanuts are pervasive in the deep south. They're available at roadside stands. Bags are available on the counters of convenience stores. When I was growing up, kids used to hawk them through the corridors of the state capitol.

A lot of the roadside stands promote the fact they've got "hot" boiled peanuts. Personally, I like them refrigerated.

A recent innovation is the Cajun boiled peanut. This is a spicy variation featuring crab boil, cayenne pepper, or other spices in the water. I like them, but prefer regular boiled peanuts.

Boiled peanuts have never spread beyond deep south. We don't get them in Texas. We can't even get the green peanuts necessary to boil our own.

My kids grew up eating boiled peanuts on annual vacations to the Florida Panhandle. After watching everyone devour them, my wife finally tried a few and found she liked them, though she never appeared to have the appreciation of someone who grew up eating them.

This summer, we returned to Tallahassee for my neice's wedding. Boxed between high school graduation, soccer, and choir tours, we raced in for the wedding, spent a day at the beach, and raced home. My kids were upset that we didn't take the time to buy green peanuts before leaving the beach. I promised them I would try and order some over the Internet to quiet them, but didn't really expect to find or something like that.

To my surprise, it was relatively easy, if not cheap to order green peanuts (you gotta love the Internet). When the arrived, I boiled a bunch.

I took some to work and some to church. My daughters invited friends over to try them. If you're wondering when I'm getting to the point, this is it.

Almost no one took one look and wanted to give them a try. It took encouragement and persuasion. After all, they're wetish. They're a blue/purple color. If you didn't know they were a delight for the palate, you might hesitate.

My daughters are pretty persuasive. They persuaded most of their friends to try them. Once they did, most discovered they liked them.

The adults I shared the peanuts with were less likely to give them a try, maybe because I didn't push as hard and my offspring. They didn't like the look and apparently didn't trust me. Gee, don't I look honest?

I was amazed to discover that around half the people who tentatively agreed to give boiled peanuts a try didn't have the first idea how to open a peanut. Instead of splitting it along the seam, they snapped the peanut in half. Huh? There are people who never opened a peanut? Even a roasted peanut?

Here are the marketing lessons...

1. People hate the unfamiliar and are naturally shy away from the unknown. If you product is truly new to people, you've got an uphill battle.

2. People will act on the advice of those they trust, if the recommendation is strong enough.

3. Evangelists for your product or service are much more effective getting people to engage in trial than you are about your own products. After all, they're more trustworthy.

4. Ultimately, evangelists are created by excellent products and services. If boiled peanuts weren't so good, my kids wouldn't twist their friends' arms to try them.

5. People do judge books by their covers, products by their packaging, and food by its appearance. The better your packaging, the better you can make your products appear, the more trial you will win.

6. People need to be trained how to use your product. Just because something seems obvious to you, doesn't mean it's obvious to your customers. I thought opening a peanut was obvious.


  1. Matt has been able to "train" me to open & eat boiled peanuts, but he's never been able to get me to really like them. Guess some things you just have to learn when you're young...

    Pam Michel (Matt's wife)

  2. Hmmm, must be why I hate brocolli.

  3. btjkmI LOVE boiled peanuts and where can I buy them online? We live in CT. My mom grew up in northern Florida.

    As for the story - it is a great anaolgy with excellent points and I will remeber it even more so as boiled peanuts have such a family connection for me.

  4. I didn't find the company I ordered from (not sure how I found their website). I did find the following...

    You'll need to copy and paste the link into your browser.