Thursday, March 17, 2011

New "Be Inspired" brand for pork is unlikely to completely replace "the Other White Meat"

The federal government's promotion program for pork this month launched a new slogan for pork advertisements, "Be Inspired."  The new slogan largely -- but not entirely -- replaces the previous slogan, "Pork. The Other White Meat."

The Associated Press coverage on March 4 emphasized the bad news for the former slogan:
The Other White Meat" has another slogan.

The National Pork Board on Friday replaced the decades-old ad campaign with a new message: "Pork: Be Inspired."

Board officials said after nearly 25 years, it was time to move on from the old message that compared pork to chicken and instead try to increase sales by focusing on the estimated 82 million Americans who already eat pork.
Both the old and new advertisements are funded by the National Pork Board, which is a "checkoff" program established by Congress in 1985 to support pork research and promotion.  The board's $60 million annual budget is collected using federal taxation authority through a mandatory assessment on pork producers.  [Update: Following two sentences have been revised in response to the first comment.]  The board provides millions of dollars each year under subcontracts to the National Pork Producers Council, the industry's largest private-sector trade association.  The USDA Office of the Inspector General (.pdf) wrote in 1999 that the National Pork Board "needs to improve accountability for the funds and regain control over the National Pork Producers Association's (NPPC) influence on the Board's business," which led to increased efforts in the 2000s to maintain an arm's length relationship between the two entities.

It is easy to see why the National Pork Board might have been dissatisfied with the 20-year-old Other White Meat slogan.  During the years the slogan was used, chicken (broiler) consumption soared while pork consumption stagnated, even though there is no federal checkoff program for chicken as there is for pork and beef.  These trends were highlighted in an analysis prepared by the National Pork Board to justify the new campaign, which was approved by USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service in December, 2010.

The analysis pointed out that the old Other White Meat brand was targeted at light users of pork.  This audience was not enough to achieve the remarkably ambitious objective in the National Pork Board's new strategic plan: "a 10 percent increase in real per capita domestic consumer expenditures for pork."

For such a sharp increase in pork demand, the new campaign will have to promote major increases in consumption by a target audience that is more heavily into pork.  The new target audience is described in the National Pork Board analysis as "the flavor-seeking creative," people who enjoy cooking and "love a good meal -- with various proteins at the center, plus delicious sides."  The target group is "aware of fat and sodium, but doesn’t let that stop them from enjoying pork."

Despite what news reports implied, the documents from the National Pork Board say that the program is not abandoning the Other White Meat brand. You can still see the old brand way down in the bottom right corner of the pork board's website, described as a "Our Heritage Brand."

It would have been awkward for the checkoff program to abandon the old brand entirely, given that the National Pork Board committed to using $60 million in farmers' checkoff payments to buy the rights to use the Other White Meat slogan from the National Pork Producers Council less than five years ago.

At the time of this sale, I asked questions about the appraisal that was used to determine this sum, but neither USDA nor the National Pork Board would release the information.  The documents I received under a Freedom of Information Act request were blacked out to remove the most important information. The information about the appraisal that was visible in the documents justified the $60 million estimate on the grounds that, without this purchase, the National Pork Board would have to invest in developing a new slogan from scratch.  The reason now seems especially dubious, as the board invests in the launch of the new "Be Inspired" slogan.

In 2006, USDA said the $60 million payment to the National Pork Producers Council would be made in intallments of $3 million per year for 20 years. It might be politic for the pork checkoff program to retain that "heritage brand" in the lower right-hand corner for many years to come.


Anonymous said...

Your statement "Most of the board's advertising activities are carried out under subcontracts to the National Pork Producers Council, a private-sector trade association" is patently incorrect. You need to check your facts a little better.

Parke Wilde said...

Yes, thanks for the comment. I see that my information was outdated, and I have now explained the relationship more precisely.

Sammie said...

I enjoy pork and I would definitely work with it more if I could find better natural sources for it. The preservative they put in it is the same stuff they put in chicken and turkey but so much harder to find without it.

John said...

The pork industry defends horrendous cruelty to animals -- factory farmers keep breeding pigs locked in two-foot-wide crates where the pigs can’t even turn around for nearly their entire lives. Eight states have passed laws against this type of animal abuse, yet groups like the National Pork Producers Council still support it.

More info at this link: