“The mountain state holds such a significant part in the history and culture behind apple cider. We want to recognize, celebrate and educate others on West Virginia hard cider stemming from Appalachian roots.”Dee Singh-Knights, Associate Professor of Resource Economics and Management Extension Specialist
In the 18th century, when clean drinking water was not guaranteed, apple cider was America’s beverage. At the time much of that cider came from right here in West Virginia. However, by the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Mountain State’s deep roots in the cider industry became less prominent, leading to fewer cideries and a lost connection to the Appalachian traditions ingrained in the production of the tasty beverage.
To cultivate increased pride in West Virginia’s cider traditions WVU Extension turned to MHA to develop a campaign to increase visibility and interest in the rich stories, culture and production of hard cider.
In interviews with cidery operators, and experts who grow apples and understand the legislative landscape we learned that the history, connection to community and unique experiences offered at cideries offered opportunities to elevate awareness and increase interest.
An analysis of travel reviews and conversations with cidery experts pointed to unaware West Virginians and travelers as the ideal audiences to target. West Virginians who take pride in their state, culture, businesses and community would appreciate the local tradition and stories behind West Virginia hard cider. Travelers from surrounding areas, including Washington D.C., seek to escape the busy city life to experience memorable adventures that West Virginia cider can provide.
Once we better understood the challenge and who we needed to communicate with, it was time to determine what we needed to say to help reconnect with these audiences. Our governing brand idea was born. We wanted to share the Roots of the Appalachian Experience.
A message stemming from West Virginia cider being deeply rooted in Appalachian culture, history and traditions allowed us to present hard cider as more than a beverage; it is an Appalachian experience that can be learned about or enjoyed with friends and family.
To educate West Virginians and out-of-state travelers about the important stages of Appalachian hard cider creation, we created the central tagline “Seed. Swig. Smile.” We later incorporated this slogan into all of our deliverables to convey a consistent message. Each word of the tagline holds meaning to West Virginia cider traditions.
- Seed unites the rich farming and horticulture native to the state
- Swig embodies the cider-making traditions passed down from generation to generation
- Smile represents the community-oriented nature of the mountain state’s cider industry and how it gives back to West Virginians
U.S. Apple Cider Day
Nov. 18th marked both U.S. Apple Cider Day and the official launch of our campaign. We promoted the nationally celebrated holiday by building excitement and interest in West Virginia cider while directing audiences to learn more.
WVU Extension Cider Website Page
To share the rich traditions, the team developed content that was shared on WVU Extension’s website. Narratives included the history of West Virginia’s hard cider, hard cider creation process and information about West Virginia’s hard cider industry (cideries, distilleries and orchards). A short-form documentary was also produced that included interviews and footage shot at the WVU Animal Husbandry Farm, Hawk Knob and Swilled Dog.
To further drive traffic to the website while inspiring pride and involvement in the hard cider industry, our team utilized email marketing targeting individuals who had an existing relationship with WVU Extension.
For in-person contact, we also created educational banners that allow viewers to learn more about West Virginia cider culture at events where the displays are showcased. Those who are able to remember the key points receive a sticker to remember the campaign’s message.
Success and Results
West Virginia cider stems from centuries of Appalachian tradition passed down from generation to generation. Our campaign bridged the gap between the past and the present, opening a door for future growth and continuous elevation of the West Virginia cider industry.
Here are a few successes:
- Total cider landing page views: 788 viewers
- Instagram: reach of 8,621 people; 295 total likes
- Facebook: 80 new page likes; page reach of 40,064 viewers (57.8% increase)
- Email marketing: open rate of 4,744 people (28.7%); 122 cider website clicks
- Showcased at Swilled Dog’s Home Grown Event, an agritourism networking event for West Virginia businesses
- New asset for WVU Extension that can be used at future events and opportunities