eTalks – The Secrets of Food Marketing

December 26, 2019

I’m going to give you some of the secrets about how we make you buy what we want you to buy. So, as a marketer, when I’m first giving you a product, what’s my job? Well, my job is to make you want it, to crave it, to need it. To think that is the best innovation in food since, well, since sliced bread. But how do we do it? Well I’m going to give you a really big example later that I’m going to break right down for you, but let’s just start by look at a few fun little things. So here we have ‘Shreddies’, an old favourite, been around for years, very popular in the UK and Canada. Without changing a single little thing about that product, they re-marketed them, re-branded them, as brand new ‘Diamond Shaped Shreddies’. Food marketing genuis right there. In the 1950s there was a very important innovation in food, the instant mix cake. One of my personal favourites. When they were first brought out all you needed to do was to add a little bit of water, who’s not going to love that? Well actually no one loved it, no one bought the bloody things. So they did a bit of research and what they found was that the main consumer, the target consumer, the housewife, felt that it was cheating. They didn’t want to pass off such an easy thing as their own baking to their partners, their husbands, their families, whatever. So what did the producers have to do? They had to make it harder, so now you had to add water and an egg. And sales eggsploded! But these examples, these are just chicken feed compared to what I really want to talk about tonight, and that is chickens, and pigs and cows. So when we think about where chickens etcetera come from, we think about it a bit like that, that’s sort of our insinctive idea. But we all know if we really think about it, if we think about it deeply, it’s probably a little bit more like that. But that’s a lot nicer, it’s a lot more romantic. So how do we give you this impression? Well, there are three techniques that we use, the third of which is our secret weapon and I am going to blow it for you tonight so please stay primed for that. Let’s look at technique number one: everybody believes what’s on the label. So let’s look at some examples, some of my favourites, some of the ones I use all the time. I’ll use ‘Farm Fresh’, I’ll use ‘100% natural, I’ll use ‘Butcher’s choice’. But what does that really actually mean? Well truthfully it doesn’t mean very much. We see that on the label, we feel a bit more confident. But let’s look at what a farm really looks like, it probably looks like that. Now this is a concentrated animal feeding operation. I’m going to run that past you again, it’s a concentrated animal feeding operation. That’s not going to look great on a label, hence we use ‘Farm Fresh’. Innovation number two, this is what we use, we focus on progress. Intensive farming was born out of necessity. At the end of the Second World War, resources were extremely tight. Farming had to be, it had to be by necessity very, very economical. And we’ve learnt from that and we’ve built from that and we’re able to now raise more and more animals in smaller and smaller spaces. So we’ve got extremely good at it. If we looked at room about this size and this was turned into a chicken barn, it’s a one hundred seat theatre, how many chickens could we probably fit in this room now? I’m going to say about four thousand. It’s pretty impressive isn’t it? It would probably look a little bit like that. Now the public aren’t going to be massively keen on that, it’s my job to make them feel a little bit better about it. So how do I do it? Well, a basic principal in marketing. We use the right choice of words, and by using the right choice of words, we can focus the conversation the way we want it to. So we use an example like this. When you look at that picture where is your eye drawn? It’s drawn right to the middle of the page, massive letters, we’ve got ‘strive to optimize’. What we’re looking at in the picture, in reverse, looks a bit like that. But this looks a lot nicer because we’re looking at ‘strive to optimize’, it makes us feel like there’s progress, we feel good. So the challenge for the marketers is to make the public feel comfortable about what they’re seeing. One of the side effects of intensive farming, of having so many animals in such a small space, unfortunatly, is obviously disease. Because you put so many animals in a small space, they’re going to get sick. It is no secret that fifty percent of all the antibiotics in the world are used on farmed animals. So how do you make the public feel okay with this? How does that happen? My Job! How do I do it? I use the language of innovation. So we go back to our old friends at, and what they do is, they say: As farming has become more efficient, veterinarians have incorporated new technologies and methods into practice. This makes us feel good, this is positive, yes? This is progress. And when we’re then marketing to future consumers, we would perhaps use something like this. This is a colouring book. ‘Pigs and Pork’. It’s absolutely gorgeous. What we’re doing here is we’re getting the children to focus on the fact that we’re using innovation. So by bringing the pigs out from the muddy fields and into the clean barns, we’re taking them away from all that nasty dirty mud and all the diseases that are lurking there within. Positive. So onto our secret weapon, this is what we really need to focus on. So these two techniques alone, they are not going to work, we need a secret weapon, number three. It is actually in this room right now. *Calls out* Secret weapon! It is… You! But how do we do it? When you’re in the supermarket, you don’t want to want to think about where those products have come from. You don’t want to think about how those animals have been reared, how they’ve been treated. The power of willful ignorance cannot be overstated. This is systemised cruelty on a massive scale, and we only get away with it because everyone is prepared to look the other way. Thank you.

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