Big Data + Digital Marketing = Eating More Pork

By Darcy Maulsby and Jason Menke

Pop quiz – how many times a day do you check your smartphone? 10 times? 20? 60? The answer might shock you.

“The average person in the United States checks it 150 times a day,” said Steve Lerch, an account executive with Google, who spoke at the 2018 World Pork Expo in Des Moines. “That’s not just teenagers or millennials, that’s everyone. We experience our world today, including the most important moments of our lives, through our phones.”

Smartphones have become people’s connection to everything, driving a digital revolution that’s rewriting the rules for marketers, including the National Pork Board. The digital world is transforming how people decide what to eat and what they feed their families, and the trend is only accelerating.

“Marketing has changed drastically in a short time,” Lerch said. “If your marketing strategy looks the same as it did 10 years ago, five years ago or even two years ago, you need to ask yourself if it still makes sense.”


YouTube creator Guga Foods did a taste test of three tenderloins grilled to internal
temperatures of 145°F, 157°F and 170°F. The video has more than 61,000 views,
nearly 2,000 likes and 400 comments. Guess which tenderloin won?

Consider the Change in Media Consumption
“In 2012, television still led in terms of minutes per day that people consumed media,” Lerch said. “By 2017, it wasn’t even close, due to digital communication.”

That’s why Pork Checkoff dollars are being invested in a partnership between Google and the Pork Board to fine-tune pork’s ability to reach consumers online more effectively. While the digital tools are sophisticated, the goal is simple.

“We want more people to eat more pork,” said Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing for the Pork Checkoff.

“Nearly every sale starts with a search,” Sutton said. “We’re working with Google, the world’s No. 1 search engine to make sure we understand how consumers’ searches can impact their decisions to buy pork.”

According to Lerch, nearly one-third (31 percent) of all food/beverage sales are influenced in the

digital space. When people make food decisions, flavor is the No. 1 consideration (39 percent), followed by comfort (19 percent) and “I grew up eating it” (13 percent).

Consumers also consider health and whether something is easy to cook. At the bottom of the list are “availability” and “inexpensive,” at five percent each.

“The Pork Board can’t control the price of pork chops or whether a consumer has fond memories of eating ham at Christmas,” Sutton said. “But we can influence perceptions about nutrition, share the proper end-point cooking temperature of chops and show people how to easily make ribs in an Instant Pot. By focusing our marketing dollars, we can make an impact.”


Binging With Babish, a YouTube cooking channel with 3 million subscribers,
created a video on how to brine and cook rib and loin chops to a perfect 145°F on
both the grill and on the stove. The video has more than 1 million views, 24,000
likes and 2,200 comments.

A Shift in Strategy
For the past year and a half, the Pork Board has worked with Google to put all this knowledge into practice through new digital marketing tactics.

Through audience targeting (identifying the right people) and contextual marketing (reaching them when they are searching for specific key words), the board is engaging customers searching online for pork recipes, cooking instructions/ideas and nutrition information.

“When people search for pork, we want to ensure that the results direct them to Checkoff-created or sponsored content,” said Andy Brudtkuhl, director of emerging technology for the Pork Checkoff. “Our Google relationship streamlines the process, thanks to its detailed information about consumers’ online behavior.”

For example, Google data showed a strong correlation between consumers searching for patio furniture and grilling recipes.

“Someone who’s looking to spruce up their deck is thinking about outdoor entertaining, so we can develop a strategy that allows us to put a video of grilling ribs in front of someone who’s making decisions about a patio table and chairs,” Sutton said.

If your marketing strategy looks the same as it did 10 years ago, five years
ago or even two years ago, you need to ask yourself if it still makes sense.

– Steve Lerch, an account executive with Google

Vietnamese Grilled Pork is the focus of Honeysuckle’s YouTube video. With more
than 26,000 views, this video perfectly showcases how pork’s versatility and
flavor profile fits with international flavors. She has more than 590,000 subscribers.

Unexpected Influencers
YouTube, which is owned by Google, has created a new generation of celebrities and opinion influencers. Even if may of these stars aren’t yet household names, their YouTube channels have more influence, in terms of reach, than popular TV shows.

Lerch mentioned Game of Thrones, the cable television drama that most people have heard of even if they’ve never seen it. The series draws about 25 million viewers per episode, for an annual reach of 250 million people.

Meanwhile, Rosanna Pansino, who is a YouTube personality/baker you’ve probably never heard of, has blown past those numbers. Pansino is the star of Nerdy Nummies, one of the most well-known YouTube baking channels. She has an estimated 55 million video views a month, or 660 million views a year.

“Pansino is more than twice as effective in terms of reach as Game of Thrones,” Lerch said. “Just because you don’t watch her doesn’t mean she doesn’t have tremendous influence.”

To capitalize on the shift in consumer viewing habits and influence, the Pork Board is working with FameBit, a Google-owned marketing platform that helps brands connect with YouTube influencers, Brudtkuhl noted.

“For much less money than creating a TV commercial and buying air time, we can focus a specific message on a specific segment of consumers while increasing the Pork checkoff’s credibility and engagement with them,” Brudtkuhl said.

Working with FameBit, the Pork Board identified 12 different YouTube channels to advance the 145oF end-point cooking temperature message. The videos, which started appearing in June, have already garnered more than 1.5 million views.

Results show the power of digital marketing.
“Your phone is your window into everything, and you carry it everywhere,” Lerch said. “That’s a gift to marketers, including the National Pork Board, which has become a leader in digital marketing.”

The Pork Checkoff’s Partnership with Google Delivered Results in the First Half of 2018

  • Profit: Drove $9.1M in pork sales at an investment of $1.5M
  • Influence: Impacted the consideration and favorability of more than 3 million consumers
  • Engagement: Prompted Americans to watch 170 million pork videos, collectively engaging them for the equivalent of 115 years
  • Expertise: Led to people finding Pork Board information for 5 million online questions/searches
  • Innovation: Created 36 premium videos, 12 from YouTube rising stars