Attendees of the second annual New York International Olive Oil Competition conference on new directions in olive oil product development and brand-building (Erik Freeland)

In front of a sold-out audience on the first day of the second annual New York International Olive Oil Competition, several featured speakers emphasized the power of engagement, storytelling and creating connections for olive oil producers in today’s global marketplace.

While it was frequently noted that education should be a primary goal to improve awareness of, and access to, the best olive oils across the world, another compelling theme emerged throughout the day at the International Culinary Center: sellers of high-quality olive oils have myriad opportunities for innovative marketing and branding tactics to reach a wider audience.

Branding Outside the Bottle and Leveraging Trends

Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman, president of design at Sterling Brands, dazzled attendees with her exploration of the evolution of brands, their meanings and their manifestations since the 19th century. She highlighted the magical way that some brands create transformative emotional experiences for their customers. Millman encouraged olive oil producers to leverage their abilities to serve as connectors.

Self-described merchant adventurer Liz Tagami, President of Tagami International, described appetizing new ways to inspire and educate consumers via delicious food and beverage recipe sharing. She also delivered interesting commentary on how to communicate the true value of the health benefits of olive oil.

Innovative Strategies

Bryn Mooth

Bryn Mooth, food journalist and copywriter, delved deeper into the opportunities for olive oil brands in the realm of content marketing, with specific focus on the online space and social media. She explained that manufacturers have a plethora of attributes that they can tout when crafting their brand narratives. Olive oil purveyors can engage customers by giving them details of their unique hand-harvesting processes and production considerations or by profiling the individuals who work to get their products to market. Brand marketers can also suggest inventive usage ideas, describe their products’ tasting notes and health benefits, or convey associations with the Mediterranean lifestyle, such as the idea of slowing down and savoring one’s food.

Engagement Through Storytelling

Jason Gibb

Speaker Jason Gibb opened his presentation by telling his own personal story of how he came into the world of olive oil. Gibb went from being a foodie who worked in television in Los Angeles and enjoyed regular to trips to his local farmers markets to moving to Italy, buying and restoring an abandoned 21-acre olive grove, and founding his olive oil company, Nudo Italia, with his partner Cathy Rogers. He went on to develop the highly successful “Adopt an Olive Tree” program where Nudo customers adopt one of their trees for a year and enjoy premium olive oil from their very own tree.

With a high-quality offering, Gibb says, olive oil producers can utilize storytelling in their own ways to engage and communicate with their consumers via multiple channels. He closed by saying, “People like stories. Make it your own story, and of course you have to have a great product to back it up.”

The 2014 NYIOOC continues Wednesday with more strategies for olive oil marketing, merchandising and distribution.

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