Successful marketing is challenging. Consider a recent Harvard Business Review study that showed that people’s trust has declined in business, government, media and non-governmental agencies. Consumers also don’t trust traditional brands as much as in the past, according to Steve Lerch, account executive with Google.

“That’s why it’s important to find the influencers your audience trusts,” Lerch said.

The message is as important as the messenger, added Lerch, who encourages food marketers to focus on these points:

1. Strong is the new skinny.

From 2011 to 2015, people searching for “get fit” rose 29 percent, while searches for “get skinny” dropped 6 percent.

“This is a huge change in American values,” Lerch said. “It changes the way we talk to consumers and the way we help them achieve their goals of getting fit and strong.”

Also, one in three people say physical activity is important to their identity.

“It’s who they are,” Lerch said. “Being fit isn’t a hobby; it’s their purpose. These people pay attention to how much protein they eat. The problem is that people don’t understand protein.”

For example, he noted that 42 percent of people erroneously think there’s more protein in soy milk than dairy milk.

“Consumers need to be educated a way that aligns with higher-level goals for their lives,” Lerch said.


2. Semi-homemade for my family.

“While the majority of American families report eating a meal together fewer than five days a week, the American family hasn’t given up on the idea of eating together,” Lerch said. “Data show that 38 percent of parents are aspiring chefs who value spending time with their family.”

Thus the soaring popularity of meal-kit services such as Blue Apron that allow people to make a family dinner in a fraction of the time. What does this mean for pork?

“We have to give consumers shortcuts that make it easy to enjoy family mealtime,” Lerch said.

3. Moments of truth in the buyer’s journey.

Customers used to take about seven seconds to choose which brand to buy as they looked at items on a grocery shelf.

“Google calls this the zero moment of truth,” Lerch said. “Consumers no longer engage with brands and products for the first time when they visit a grocery store. They’ve engaged with your product online long before they walk into the store.”

With the explosion of digital and mobile communication, consumers conduct tenfold the amount of research on a product than they used to, Lerch noted.

“If people used to have questions about cuts of meat or pork recipes, they talked with their butcher,” he said. “Now, they ask their phone or computer. That’s why the pork industry needs to be available through digital communication to be part of this online research process.”

The vast majority (90 percent) of foodies turn to websites and social media for food information. Online sites are their No. 1 source, followed by the media and friends/family/colleagues, Lerch said.

“Because of all this readily available information, consumers’ expectations are extremely high,” Lerch said.


4. Functional foods.

Consumers have a growing interest in functional foods, or super foods, which go beyond basic nutrition to help promote optimal health and potentially disease risks.

“It’s not enough that pork is high in protein,” Lerch said. “The National Pork Board must connect the product to the benefits. What does that protein do? It gives you energy and helps you get through your day.”


5. Smartphone as sous chef.

It’s important to provide answers online about practical things people need to know to succeed with pork, from selecting the right cut for a specific dish to following the correct cooking temperature, said Lerch, who noted that six in 10 millennials turn to their smartphones or tablets for information when in the kitchen.


6. Recipe remix.

Consumers like to add their own touches to recipes and share the results online, which dovetails with the tremendous demand for online videos that show how to prepare food.

“If you look at the comment sections on food-related YouTube videos, people often post their own version of the recipe,” Lerch said. “You want people to talk about your product, so give them the opportunity to share and be an advocate for pork.”