Brands, taglines and how the Pork Producers are killing their golden pig

Screen shot 2010-06-12 at 9.37.05 AM At a recent industry event, the National Pork Producers announced that they would be stepping away from their iconic tagline of almost 25 years…the other white meat.  

The association's VP of marketing explained that the tagline wasn't driving sales and that people seem to have forgotten what the tagline means.  (I'd be willing to bet that if you did a man on the street poll — no one has forgotten what it means!)

This is actually not new news…despite all the buzz.  The Pork Producers began to abandon their tagline in 2007 when they tried the completely forgettable "don't be blah" campaign in a effort to step away from their own tagline.  This was the same year that "the other white meat" was listed as #29 of the 100 most influential taglines since 194

The other white meat is one of the most recognizable taglines in the country.  It's recall is the envy of most companies.  It has it's own wikipedia page and website for Pete's sake!  

Most businesses would kill to have that kind of tagline — the Pork Producers did it all right back in 1987 when they hired Bozell to develop the tagline and then until the last few years — they were absolutely consistent in their use for it.

So why would anyone abandon such an institutional asset?  Because they are expecting it to do something it was never designed to do.

Taglines, by themselves, are not designed to drive sales as its primary job.  That's what an advertising campaign is supposed to do.  

A tagline, or brand promise, as we like to call it at McLellan Marketing Group, creates an emotional reaction or connection between the product and the consumer.  It's the one thing that the brand wants to own in the mind of the consumer.  In the case of the Pork Producers — that's why "the other white meat" was so brilliant.

As our friends over at Branding Strategy Insider say:

The ideal benefit to claim in a brand promise has the following three qualities: (1) it is extremely important to the target consumer, (2) the brand’s organization is uniquely suited to delivering it and (3) competitors are not addressing it. 

So — is "the other white meat" not meeting those criteria anymore?  Are people less health conscious about what they eat, red meat etc today?  Nope.  Is pork uniquely suited to being the other white meat?  Yup.  And are any other meat competitors trying to own that space?  No.

If pork sales are stagnant — it's not the tagline's fault.  In the Des Moines Register article, the Pork Producer's representative references the fact that their research shows that people believe pork lacks taste.  Sounds like a problem that an advertising campaign, coupled with some education and sampling, could solve.  Certainly a "it's tasty" is not a unique brand position.

Bottom line for me — they are fixing something that isn't broke.  And in fact, are throwing away a huge organizational asset.  And, worst of all —  it's not going to solve their sales problem.  

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12 comments on “Brands, taglines and how the Pork Producers are killing their golden pig

  1. Peter Tubbs says:

    I sense a new agency trying to put their mark on the wall- change for change sake, whether it makes sense or not.

    I would love to read the internal data on the tagline. Perhaps there are trendlines that are going in bad directions.

    Keep up the fine work.

  2. Eric Brown says:

    Drew, Good Morning
    It is amazing to me, how some large corporations react to marketing, be it tag lines, logos and such. As a small business owner and marketer, sometimes, things are just fine the way they are. To your point, The Other White Meat is such a classic tag line, why would anyone abandon that.

    Just yesterday I found myself staring at a Pepsi vending machine, specifically at the new logo, although maybe it isn’t considered new anymore. I wondered just how much that cost, and how a logo change could ever justify the cost. Just seems like the marketing dollars could have been deployed in a different direction, or a different result. It reminds me of clients that tout they are “Getting a new Web Site, when the existing one is just fine with a few SEO tweaks.

    Perhaps folks gravitate toward things that are easy, as opposed to doing the work of something that may garner real results.

  3. Peter —

    Yes, I’d like to see the research too. But even more than the results, I’d like to see how the questions were phrased.

    It may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.


  4. Claire,

    Well the tagline has reached iconic status — a situation most brands would kill for. But look at how many brands walk away from that equity. Remember when Timex was…takes a licking and keeps on ticking?


  5. Eric,

    One of the toughest marketing lessons we have to help clients grasp is the concept of “leave it alone!” It’s tempting to make a change…because you are bored with it or it’s not working fast or hard enough.

    But often times, companies pull the plug right before the effort can take root and really begin to have impact.


  6. Blueduder says:

    Good post, Drew.

    Colossal mistake. It won’t surprise me when new ads featuring the classic tagline appear within a year, once new research suggests consumers prefer it to its ill-fated successor. Rather than abandoning a proven commodity, the Pork Producers would be wise to instead explore new ad campaigns that reinforce the brand. Let the tagline be.

    They need variety – not a whole new direction. Heck, variety should be at the core of the campaign that eliminates the perception of blandness: A Variety of Tastiness! Because there are infinite ways to prepare pork, but in the minds of consumers it will always be the other white meat. So flavor the white meat. Don’t do away with it.

    For example, Nike possesses the second most memorable slogan of all time (Advertising Age ranked De Beers’ “Diamonds Are Forever” No. 1), yet it doesn’t include “Just Do It” in all of its ad campaigns. They switch it up and come back to “Just Do It” when timing, product, and campaign align. And you seldom hear of Nike sales slumping.

  7. Lani Voivod, co-owner of Epiphanies, Inc. says:

    Fabulous post, Drew. A similar brand brouhaha was inspired by the NH Union Leader’s editor a week or so ago, in which he condemned the state’s Travel & Tourism Dept. for ignoring the power and brand equity of “Live Free or Die,” as well as hiring a Florida firm to assist with the rebranding.

    Here’s the article: – and if you’re feeling brave, put on your helmet and take a look at the thread of maniacal comments this issues has ignited. Jeesh…

    Hope all’s great for you and your ventures!

    P.S. “It’s Tasty” cracks me up!!! I’m pretty sure you’ve “memed” my brain.

  8. Karl Sakas says:

    But wait, it gets better! The National Pork Board’s lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to etailer, which sells cans of ‘Unicorn Meat’ as “The New White Meat”:

  9. Lyle Gunderson says:

    I read about this elsewhere, and was shocked. Sounds like the pig farmers should have hired you guys instead!

    For some reason, I am suddenly driven to go out and buy some bratwurst…

  10. Derek Bough says:

    Reminds me of your “Leave your brand alone!” post about Timex. Two very insignificant taglines since their “Takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin'”. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

  11. Mike Wagner says:

    Good point Drew!

    When leaders don’t know what else to do they mess with their logos and taglines. The alternative would be leading. (I know, too harsh, but that’s why they call it “the brutal facts”.

    To use a philosophical distinction; logos/taglines are necessary for a brand’s success but not sufficient to achieve a brand’s success.

    Keep creating…and stirring things up,

    1. Mike,

      I agree — it’s an attempt to generate new excitement around a company, rather than actually doing something exciting.


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