After a tough year Greece is open for business! The TV commercials of the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO) are great and I am sure they will attract many travelers. I am taking this opportunity to write today about advertising and selling Greek products in America. Of course, I am neither a businessman nor an expert in marketing, so these are just the views of an American consumer.
Let me start with advertising vacations in Greece. The US market is big and has great potential for Greek tourism, but the Greek government and professional organizations need to spend money advertising. This year is a special case but starting next year there should be TV commercials targeted toward the US market. I would suggest that such spots appear in America in November. The way businesses work here, people need plenty of time to request certain vacation dates; the earlier they are motivated to come to Greece, the easier it would be to arrange the right dates. Also, there is nothing more persuasive than people in Minnesota and other northern states seeing the Greek sun and beaches when it is snowing outside and the temperature is -10C, and often lower!
While there are many Greek products that will do well selling in the US, I will focus on three. Greek wine is not just retsina anymore. Every time I have friends over for dinner, I serve Greek wines, and the comments are always positive; indeed, friends ask me where I bought a particular wine so they can buy it too. The problem is that you cannot find Greek wines at all liquor stores. Maybe an advertising campaign by Greek producers, as I saw recently done by Bulgarian winemakers, will bring more of our wines to the American market, which is huge.
In the last 20 years or so, Americans have started eating more healthily and many Greek products would sell well here. Olive oil is one such product; while many years ago only a few people used olive oil, and it was not easy to find, today many people use it and it’s readily available. Unfortunately, Greek olive oil is not well-known – Italian oil is king. In my informal tests however, friends just love Greek olive oil. Just like the wine, Greek olive oil is not readily available, although I do find it in a big chain store famous for its quality products. While Italian olive oil dominates the US market, and California makes good olive oil too, I still think there is room for our olive oil as well, given the large US market and the quality we can offer to consumers.
My great disappointment is yogurt. American supermarkets offer a variety of what is advertised as “Greek-style” yogurt, but somehow Greek yogurt is not on top of the list! All the big companies offer “Greek-style” yogurt, some even use Greek names. Someone even started a new company selling “Greek-style” yogurt and is doing very well. I am not sure why good Greek yogurt, while available, is not as popular. I think it is because the Greek company was not fast enough in advertising.
Many years ago, when I was taking business classes, I was told that “you need to spend money to make money.” Greece has the type of products that American consumers already want; all we need is to advertise/educate the American public that Greece indeed produces such products, and they are as good, and often better, than those currently available. It will take time, money and effort, but I think the payoff could be huge for the Greek economy.
John A. Mazis is a history professor at Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota.