Minneapolis-based Morgan & Myers’ (M&M) client, The California Raisin Marketing Board (CRMB), set out to introduce its irresistible new California Raisin Character and increase awareness of California Raisins among its target audience.  Still inspired by the popularity of the California Dancing Raisins nearly 10 years earlier, the Board chose to re-launch a new California Raisin Character with a health and nutrition message and revised lyrics to the popular hit song “Heard it Through the Grapevine.”  The limited budget for the program did not allow for advertising, so consumers’ only opportunity to learn about the new California Raisin Character would be through public relations.  Using PR as its primary marketing tool, Richard Simmons and the new California Raisin Character proved an impressive media draw -- 40 million media impressions in four days -- during one of the year’s busiest rating periods, sweeps month.      High profile media coverage included Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, Today Show and Tonight Show with   Jay Leno


Market research of diverse audiences (consumers, retail, foodservice) commissioned by the Raisin Board indicated:

  • High recall of past advertising using the dancing raisins despite having been off television for nearly 10 years.
  • While people remembered the advertising, there was low recall of the message.  This provided an opportunity to deliver very direct messages about the benefits of eating raisins in the new campaign.
  • New health and nutrition research on raisins indicated they contained high levels of antioxidants, a positive message that could be promoted to consumers through activities with the “healthier” Dancin’ Raisin character. 


Morgan & Myers recommended to the Board the idea of staging an energetic bi-coastal media event and secured a $350,000 budget for the program.  The agency then embarked on a partnership with WorldCom affiliates Marina Maher Communications (MMC) in NYC and Cerrell Associates, in Los Angeles, for their special events expertise and positive track record in obtaining national and local media coverage. 

Together, the agencies championed the outreach to secure the quirky, “love ‘em or hate ‘em” health/fitness guru Richard Simmons as its spokesperson.  Simmons would convey with integrity the health and nutrition message, and act as the voice of the new Raisin Character. 


  • Generate awareness and excitement for California Raisins with new health message that will ultimately lead to sales
  • Create “buzz” for new California Raisin Character to help support CRMB’s outreach to food manufacturers and restaurant chains


Create disruptive public relations opportunities unveiling the new California Raisin Character in unexpected venues in NYC and Los Angeles

Use a well-known health/fitness authority as spokesperson to draw media attention 

Leverage consumer awareness in California Raisin Character’s new health message to generate renewed interest in purchasing raisins

Target Audience: Women 18-54 years-old (family food-buying decision makers)


  • Hold fun and interactive media events in NYC and Los Angeles to “unveil” the new California Raisin Character
  • In NYC, create the “World’s Longest Grapevine Line” to attract attendees and provide great visuals for b-roll
  • In Los Angeles, host two media events:  1) Stage “California Raisin Day” featuring an “Ideal Fruit for Your Commute” breakfast for morning commuters at Union Station, as well as a securing a resolution by the LA City Council; and 2) Stage a “Raisin Shine Workout” with Richard Simmons at Universal Studios


Raisin a Ruckus: In NYC, MMC produced an upbeat and exciting b-roll of the “Grapevine” event to get the word out nationwide and create consumer awareness for California Raisins.  This wave of interest in California Raisins and the Character helped to prompt interest in the product for manufacturers and restaurant chains.

Saturate the airwaves: MMC maximized the brief window of time in NYC for Simmons’ media appearances by tag-teaming him with the new California Raisin Character on as many local and national television broadcasts as possible.   When he wasn’t on the air, he was holding court with print reporters.  In Los Angeles, Cerrell Associates, Inc., secured pre-event radio and newspaper interviews for Simmons to build excitement for the LA activities.  

Come to the mountain: To make the events enticing to media, the agencies staged events in high-traffic areas of NYC and Los Angeles, which also helped ensure participation and consumer interaction.  In NYC, MMC advanced news of the event via media outreach that included a radio news release and appearances by Simmons and the Raisin on local and national news programs.  In Los Angeles, Cerrell Associates, Inc., secured radio and newspaper interviews with Simmons to promote event participation.


Using PR as its primary marketing tool, Richard Simmons and the new California Raisin Character proved an impressive media draw (40 million media impressions in four days) – during one of the year’s busiest rating periods, sweeps month.  Coverage included Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, Fox News Now, the Today Show window, Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Associated Press, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, Village Voice, Food Network and Entertainment Weekly, among others.  
The b-roll footage of Simmons and the California Raisin Character was picked up by more than 30 stations spanning from NYC to San Francisco.  The NYC and Los Angeles events were part of the CRMB’s overall campaign to promote the nutritional benefits of California Raisins, which also included Raisin Character appearances in schools and at various trade events.