Micron potato chips? What spud marketers can teach Idaho

Idaho’s potato guru shares insights from marketing the Famous Idaho Potato.

adutton@idahostatesman.comDecember 3, 2013 

Should Idaho cultivate a new brand for itself by following the lead of the Famous Idaho Potato?

That’s what Brad Wiskirchen, CEO of Boise technology company Keynetics, proposes. He urged a group of business leaders at the annual Idaho Private 75 luncheon in October to make Idaho more appealing to outsiders by emulating the Idaho Potato Commission’s marketing campaigns.

Wiskirchen says Idaho has the same soil and technology as other potato-growing states, but Idaho’s potatoes are sought-after because of a well-cultivated brand.

Frank Muir, Idaho Potato Commission president and CEO, tells Business Insider the Idaho-grown potato is an icon with broad reach.

Q: How do you keep the Idaho potato icon vibrant?

A: We’re very consistent that we pound that [quality] message over and over again. We also try to be very current with our media on national TV, also on social media. We have over 100 videos on YouTube. We’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest. Then we have this great big, 6-ton potato traveling around the country. Everything we do, every dollar we spend, we try to leverage and connect [the potato] to something else.

Q: What do you mean, connect the potato to something else?

A: Tie-ins with [Olympic cyclist] Kristin Armstrong. Brian Scott [a NASCAR driver] had a russet potato helmet.

In television advertisements showing the truck, the truck itself has images of the American Heart Association check mark, the [Famous Idaho Potato Bowl] logo. We park the big potato truck at the bowl game.

Idaho now has two really iconic images. The blue turf [at Bronco Stadium and the potato]. My thought was, why not link the two together?

Q: How effective was connecting the potato with Bronco football?

A: It used to be [Idaho was known for] potatoes and white supremacists. I think the blue turf probably has knocked off the northern militias.

[The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl] is such a positive image that, guess what? ESPN just bought our bowl game. They love the connection. It used to be the Humanitarian Bowl. How many people would necessarily connect the humanitarian with Boise? Leverage what you’re already known for, and build upon it.

Q: Do you think there’s room for more “Famous Idaho” icons?

A: Over the last 75 years, we’ve created ... a halo of value around the state, that whatever is grown or produced in Idaho is quality. I think groups like dairy, Idaho beef, Idaho onions, they all have leveraged the quality image of the Idaho potato.

Micron — why not take the chips they’re famous for and name them Micron Potato Chips? They would probably roll their eyes at that, but why not?

Edited for length and clarity. Audrey Dutton: 377-6448

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