One of the most successful industry campaigns is coming to an end as the National Pork Board announced recently it is ending its “The Other White Meat” campaign, created in 1987 and it helped raise pork sales more than 20%.
For those of you who can’t remember that far back, pork had a bad reputation in the mid-80s. It was considered unhealthy because of its fat content (in terms of how it was often cut) and the association with pigs.
“The Other White Meat” was positioned directly against chicken and hit the belief system emerging in the market head on: Eating white meat was healthy and red meat was the bad guy. (Even though, ironically, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says pork is not technically a white meat. It only turns white when you cook it.)
I bring this up because the campaign was successful because it tapped into the belief systems of the target audience. Belief systems, which we call precepts, are what drive human behavior. And all effective branding – and even marketing – aligns with the belief systems that exist in the market.
I agree that the time has come to alter the branding to something else, because it’s been 23 years since it’s been refreshed and belief systems – and target audiences – have no doubt changed. Sales of pork reflect that as consumption of pork has flattened out while chicken has increased.
But the new campaign the pork board will unveil is “Pork: Be Inspired” and it doesn’t seem to have aligned with a current highly emotional belief system. The only way it could is if quantitative research showed that, when it comes to food, the highest emotional intensity in the market is that we want to be inspired from it or that we are an inspirational figure when we cook. (Or, more importantly, that to be an inspirational figure is our most desired self-reflection of ourselves.)
Maybe. But I doubt it.
We will see if it improves pork consumption, and the industry may get an initial spike because of the refresh and an $11 million marketing campaign. But I cannot believe it’ll have the lasting power of the previous 23-year campaign. The board understood precepts better back then, and the current one will serve as a cautionary tale that aligning with precepts is the only way to be meaningful and preferred.