What goes better with peaches than cream? Dole Food Co. is gambling that the answer is "online cash."
Beginning June 1, Dole's first online loyalty promotion will put $10 in electronic currency on 30 million packages of Dole's Fruit Bowls. In addition to a 4-ounce single serving of peaches, pineapple, mandarin oranges, or mixed fruit, each package will have a code number redeemable at Dole.com for online cash from SoftCoin Inc. The money can be spent at any of seven participating E-tailers, including Art.com, Cooking.com, KBkids.com, and SunglassHut.com.
The second wave of the 18-month promotion, beginning Jan. 1, will put SoftCoin cash on another 30 million packages, but these will be redeemable at seven different E-tailers.
Online cash promotions are not entirely new, but they seem to be catching on as early adopters report success. The Coca Cola Co., for example, has been offering Rocket Cash on 20-ounce and one-liter bottles of Sprite since October, as part of a long-term promotion that will run into 2002. Seven months into the program, sales of those two bottle sizes are up 5%, the company says, and Sprite.com is getting 3.5 million page views from 650,000 visitors a week.
Driving traffic to the Web site isn't the point at Dole, though, says marketing services VP Marty Ordman. He was drawn to the SoftCoin program as a way to accomplish three other goals: to reach Fruit Bowls' target base of working female customers between the ages of 24 and 49, many of whom do not respond to coupons; to generate a list of E-mail addresses that can be used for other targeted promotions; and to set a fixed cost to the promotion, as opposed to the variable cost of coupons, which fluctuates with the number of consumers who respond.
Asked whether he'd be happy to see the same numbers on Dole.com as Sprite's promotion has generated, Ordman says that building traffic to the Web site is a secondary mission at best. "Success for us," he says, "is the number of Fruit Bowls we sell."
Online cash providers like RocketCash and SoftCoin, meanwhile, are getting closer to their own definition of success. This summer will see SoftCoin promotions on five Procter & Gamble Co. brands and one from The Quaker Oats Co. Frito-Lay plans to put $250 million worth of SoftCoin on Doritos, Ruffles, Lays, Tostitos, and Tropicana Twisters.