Few American children eat the recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. In addition, of the $1.6 billion spent annually on advertising food and beverages to youth, less than 1 percent is spent on marketing fruits and vegetables.

New strategy

Whether canned, frozen, dried or fresh, fruits and vegetables are a staple that people know about, but often forget. Parents have been telling their kids that spinach will make them strong and begging them to eat their broccoli for as long as there have been parents and dinners. But despite our best intentions, these tactics just aren't working.

Kids, especially adolescents, want products that are, well, cool. Right now, fruits and vegetables aren’t cutting it. But what would happen if fruits and veggies were marketed like the brands that are winning the desirability game?

"What would happen if fruits and veggies were marketed like the brands that are winning the desirability game?"

There’s no denying that marketing works, and big consumer brands know that only by becoming increasingly creative—from employing popular celebrities to edgy creative to nimble campaigns that act on the latest trends—can they realistically pursue consumers. It’s time for all of us to step it up and start leveling the playing field.

Positive momentum

The good news is that over the past few years the tide has started to turn. Those peddling traditionally ‘dull’ fruits and veggies are now taking a page out of the marketing playbook of iconic brands—and it’s paying off.

In 2012, Birds Eye Vegetables launched a major marketing campaign to kids, by kids, featuring characters from the popular kids’ TV show iCarly and saw a 20 percent jump in brand unit sales. Vidalia Onion increased its sales 50 percent with a campaign led by the beloved character Shrek. More recently, the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) launched highly stylized, branded campaigns promoting water (Drink Up) and produce (FNV).

Drink Up is in its third year and increases in sales and consumption of water due to its campaign have been well documented. FNV, working with produce companies like Bolthouse Farms and Avocados from Mexico along with many nontraditional supporters—think WWE—is only in its second quarter of action, and already seeing positive attitudinal shifts.

If we’re going to try and get people to make healthier choices, we need to supercharge traditional public health messaging. Move over big brands—two can play at that game.