Harry Overly got an unexpected call one day from Sun-Maid, the raisin company with the famous red box featuring a grapes carrying girl. It needed a new CEO—was he interested? “What is the appetite for risk?” he asked in response. Because Overly, a food industry veteran, knew the job wouldn’t be easy. Two decades ago, American grown raisins represented 45 percent of global raisin sales; today it’s less than 20 percent. And Sun-Maid, which grows its product in California, had barely marketed itself during that time, which meant it had alot of catching up to do.
The company promised it was willing to take risks, so in late 2017, Overly took the job. Then he set about reviving the brand by focusing on two main tasks: Sun-Maid needed a new voice and new products. But what voice? And what products? That would take time to figure out.
“Our biggest challenge was recognizing that our biggest source of volume were the Greatest Generation and baby boomers,” Overly says. Those older folks snack on raisins. Young people don’t—but they’re the growth opportunity. That meant, as Sun-Maid developed a new marketing voice, it needed to somehow speak to millennials without alienating their parents (or grandparents).
Overly hired a branding team, and they began testing messages. They tried a focus on health—hyping Sun-Maid’s nonprocessed, non-GMO raisins. But that proved dangerous; it made consumers wonde