Pork marketing to Gen Z must take a new approach

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Marketing pork to the younger generation, considered the Gen Zs will need to be done differently, according to Wes Jamison who teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is president of Cornerstone Public Relations LLC.

Traditional marketing and promotional efforts may not work any longer with the Gen Z consumer and commodity groups must adapt to these changes, advises public relations professor Wes Jamison.

During Iowa Swine Day, held in June on the Iowa State University Campus in Ames, Jamison spoke about the subject “Catchin’ some ZZZ’s: How Gen Z consumers understand and communicate about pork.” Jamison teaches at Palm Beach Atlantic University and is president of Cornerstone Public Relations LLC.

“It’s very difficult for the pork industry and all of animal agriculture to break through the clutter that typifies the information environment Gen Z exists in. This is the first generation that consumes information primarily from a small screen, a smart phone. The largest screen they use would be a laptop. They’re a highly visual generation,” he said.

According to Jamison, the best way to reach this generation of consumers is to have a “highly salient message,” meaning it must stand out and have an edge to it. The message also must have humor and resonant meaning, so it must make sense in their everyday lives. It also needs validity, so people in their social network need to be talking about it either online or offline and they must agree with what they’re hearing.

“You have to be willing to take some chances in your communications policies to try and construct messages that will catch their attention and hold their attention,” Jamison said.

The key components of this message is to use images, immediate form media such as 30-second YouTube spots and have a narrative or tell a story.

“We got a grant from the dairy industry to test messages about Gen Z’ers and the campaign was ‘teats out – get the deets on the teats.’ The entire theme revolved around a Holstein cow flashing the crowd, pulling up her T-shirt and showing its udders. It caught the target audience’s attention and kept it,” Jamison said. “You have to slow them down long enough to hold their attention long enough so you can get them to give you permission to persuade them. Once you have that, you need to have your facts condensed into short factlets.”

Because Generation Z is predisposed to protests and against large corporations and entities, Jamison emphasized that you have to win their permission to persuade them.

“Information technology has changed target audiences. They’re completely inundated by information and persuasive messages, so they’re highly skeptical if not cynical of organization’s messages,” Jamison said.

Marketing campaigns also need to rely on a spokesperson to whom the tribe can relate, someone who understands the way they communicate and shares values, experiences and demographics.

“That’s why in campaigns where we tested milk messages, Gen Z females ran the PR campaigns who knew how to construct messages to catch their attention. The model has been working in a number of research projects we used,” he said.

This methodology has been tested across several industries with Gen X consumers and the same template has proven successful.

“We also need to monitor social media to see what people are talking about and wrap their message in that discussion so it’s valid and it works. It’s been done with processed meats, bacon, milk and other commodity groups,” Jamison said.

When the PR team tested the milk campaign on a college campus, they anticipated blowback from the pink balloons they scattered around campus. The balloons had the image of the Holstein cow flashing the audience, so they were designed to be provocative. Some middle-aged women who didn’t know about the campaign were offended went around popping the balloons with scissors, which generated intense social media discussions on campus and primed Gen Z’ers for the messages. The PR team offered a comfort zone with cookies and milk shooters.

“It was designed to offer them comfort from the triggering message. It worked brilliantly. It created buzz and it got people talking. Some have never had milk before and started thinking they should give it a try,” Jamison said.

Every day in the classroom, Jamison learns something new.

“I’m almost 60 and I’m still surprised every day when my students tell me what will work,” he said.