Put Your Money Where Your Pork Is

What do you do when your brand message teeters fictional? Put Your Money Where Your Pork Is – which is exactly what Chipotle did last month when they discovered one of their pork suppliers failed to meet their highly branded loyalty to animal welfare.

Walk the TalkChipotle

It’s easy to say you “serve only the best”, but how willing are you actually to walk the talk? Chipotle devotes pages of their website to FWI – Food With Integrity. (BOLD, to say the least!) Their written devotion to FWI is so in depth, in fact, one could characterize their marketing mantra as bordering on the obsessive.

When you repeatedly advertise a commitment to finding the very best ingredients raised with respect for the animals, the environment, and farmers, you better be willing to back it up. Chipotle could have easily dealt with the supply chain fail on the QT but opted instead to address it publically – a definite walk the talk move on their part.

When a national chain opts for transparency over liquidity, it’s big (and refreshing) news. Chipotle pulled their pork carnitas from hundreds of their restaurants and posted a sign reading: Sorry, no carnitas. Due to supply constraints, we are currently unable to serve our responsibly raised pork. Trust us, we’re just as disappointed as you, and as soon as we get it back we’ll let the world know. Customer no carnitasloyalty and positive press prevailed pursuant.

Chain Reaction

Another point in Chipotle’s favor was the fact they refused to name the supplier who failed to meet their standards. In lieu of finger pointing, they chose to help bring the supplier’s “operations into compliance.” It was a class move by corporate standards, but not one void of potential other subsequent fallouts.

Whenever your customer takes a public eye hit, a trickle down chain reaction can occur. Such was the case for Niman Ranch, one of the most respected brands in the business and also Chipotle’s largest pork supplier. Was Niman negligent? Certainly not, but those, not in the know would certainly wonder.

Niman prudently followed Chipolte’s lead and spoke publically about it. What ensued was a highly publicized trail of what Niman was doing to help Chipotle get back up to speed in a real time demonstration of what a solid working relationship between merchant and supplier should look like.

NimanThe crux of this public relations issue is deeply attached to what makes meat natural – how animals are raised with respect to their environments if they’re free of growth hormones, antibiotics, etc. When you are committed to honoring sustainable practices, expediency is a non-issue – it takes more time to produce things naturally.

Unlike cows that bear one calf at a time over a 9 + month gestation period, it only takes 3 months, 3 weeks and 3 days for a litter of pigs to be born. 114 days may not seem like a long time, but add to that the amount of time it takes to reach harvest maturity, and it becomes vividly clear how a supply chain gap can quickly sever fluid output.

Moral of the Story

Chipotle’s challenge was twofold: 1) tarnish brand perception by operating outside of message and 2) risk the loss of an ingratiated mass appeal. Offending Millennials, now the biggest consumer population in the U.S., who rank honesty as a top priority, and Chipotle almost just as high, wasn’t worth the risk. Anything but a celeritous and straightforward move could prove fatal for years to come.

The moral of this story is transparency trumps short term gain.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

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Marketing Menus to Millennials

The big news last week was Millennials are going to take the populous crown from Boomers this year tipping the strength in numbers scale at 75.3 million.

The shift is partially due to a growing death rate among Boomers, down from 78 million to 74.9 million now. Considering the Millennial birth year cut off is 1997 (widely debated at times), the Times reports new growth in the population was achieved by an immigrant influx.

With this news, marketers can finally admonish their begrudged attention to maturity and happy dance their way to uninhibited 18-34 year old demographic bliss –or so they’d like to think.

THE BIG SNAFU

Much has been written about the coveted spending habits of Millennials. Current data-centric marketing trends would have none of us think beyond the digital tracking of who/what/when/where/why this group buys. But all the data collection in the world still can’t trump the unpredictability of human behavior –aka the big snafu.

BBDO graphicBBDO’s now iconic report on Millennial dining habits provides a transparent view on the matter. After an exhaustive survey of over 1,000 Millennials was made, the bottom line came down to one glaring result: the attitudes and behaviors of the demographic are often contradictory “…just like older generations.”

The BBDO SVP, who authored the study, told Media Post they just wanted to find the gaps. “We looked for a big ‘aha,’ but the most interesting part, for us, ended up being the contradictions.”

ASKED & LEARNED

Forbes called out The 11 Restaurants That Need to Cater to Millennials last year based on recent Nielsen studies – not one high-end restaurant was named. Chipolte (#1) and Panera (#2) were ranked as the top Millennial favorites.

Considering that nearly half of the BBDO respondents described themselves as “foodies”, one of the biggest contradictions within this group lays in their devotion to mainstream fast-food –Burger King, McDonald’s, et al. This, combined with an admitted conflict felt by a “top-of-mind” status when it comes to health, further muddles the population’s profile.

One of the most oxymoronic standouts in this group had to do with technology: 88% said they checked their phones at the dinner table, but 44% said they hated it when others did the same. (Classic snafu!) One in seven participants also wanted free Wi-Fi in restaurants.

When it comes to what matters most in how Millennials live their lives, honesty ranked the highest. This makes perfect sense in that Millennials also said they are “much more influenced by their friends’ opinions of a restaurant than by reviews on sites like Yelp.” When their friends make a recommendation, they listen.

Marketers need to take this little gem to heart as it speaks directly to the way social media pipelines and other marketing tools are used. Get the word out and allow the natural flow; running interference is a recipe for disaster.

WRAP UP

Marketing to Millennials, consists of staying on top of trend and sticking to honest policy. Accept the inevitable – human nature will throw a wrench into best campaigns every time.

Where fast food and fast casual may take precedent with the younger set today, Millennials also deem food and eating meals with friends and family as an integral part of their lifestyle. That translates to a solid patronage for years to come.

From the desk of John Cecala || Website  LinkedIn  @BuedelFineMeats  Facebook

 

 

 

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