By Jason Menke

“Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”  – William Pollard, a 19th century Quaker writer

Last summer, the National Pork Board ventured into new marketing territory by engaging YouTube® celebrities and opinion influencers to produce videos encouraging consumers to buy chops and grill them to the recommended internal temperature of 145° F. While many of these stars aren’t yet household names, their YouTube channels have more influence, in terms of reach, than popular TV shows.

Two Checkoff-funded campaigns with Famebit, a Google-owned marketing platform that helps brands connect with YouTube influencers, has produced 24 different videos. As of early December, they had been viewed nearly five million times. The Pork Checkoff’s Jenna Bieri, manager of social media strategy, called the inaugural campaign a success.

“We were excited by the opportunities YouTube presented to target and engage consumers that, quite honestly, aren’t frequent pork purchasers – possibly because we weren’t reaching them with traditional radio and TV advertising,” Bieri said. “The engagement we’ve seen from a generation of consumers who are discovering pork, has been incredibly encouraging.”

But, as Pollard points out to us in the opening quote, what we did yesterday may not be sufficient for tomorrow. With that in mind, and with an eye on further demonstrating value to supply-chain partners, the Pork Checkoff has identified ways to further reinforce its position as a valued business-to-business consultant to retailers.

“Promotion and education are in our mandate; we live it and breathe it. Encouraging consumers to buy and eat pork will always be a part of our work,” said Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing for the Pork Checkoff.

He added, “But with the early YouTube successes, we asked, ‘How can we take this to the next level and provide value to retailers?’ There’s no better way to validate the benefits of our new digital strategy than to show specific retailers that if they do this, they can increase their fresh pork sales.”

Bringing retailers along on the YouTube journey was crucial to demonstrating the value of this shift from traditional broadcast advertising to 21st century digital marketing, Sutton said.

Working with Costco, Sam’s Club and Walmart

The Pork Checkoff identified three major retailers – Sam’s Club, Costco and Walmart – as brands to implement test marketing strategies and to track sales of specific cuts.

Sam’s Club and Costco, two major warehouse clubs, sell a significant amount of pork, especially whole boneless loins. Between the Pork Checkoff’s longstanding focus on driving value for the loin and plentiful inventories, centering a campaign on what many consider the signature primal was an obvious opportunity.

A similar strategy was developed for Walmart, with a focus on whole boneless pork loins as well as loin roasts and packs of chops.

Working with Famebit, separate campaigns were developed for each of the retailers. YouTube creators showcased the versatility of the loin and chops, demonstrated how to cook pork properly and provided a call to action to go to the specific retailer to buy pork loin.

“The beauty of YouTube from a marketing standpoint lies within its ability to track and monitor each individual viewer, and to provide follow-up content via ads shown in other YouTube content,” Sutton said.

For example, if viewers watch Binging With Babish’s video created for Sam’s Club on how to break down a whole boneless loin, they can be shown a pork loin ad that directs them to Sam’s Club the next time they log onto YouTube and watch a different video.

Extending the Campaigns

“Google’s ownership of YouTube gives us the opportunity to extend the campaigns beyond YouTube,” Bieri said. “As consumers search Google in the following weeks, we can continue to provide pork-related content that aligns with each of the retailers’ related sales goals.”

For example, someone who watched a video for the Costco campaign will not just see YouTube video ads. The next time they’re searching Google and use keywords such as “healthy dinner options,” a Costco ad for pork can be included high in the search results, creating further value for both pork and Costco.

Through “search lift,” viewers’ search behaviors can be tracked to see who is searching for pork-related content after viewing sponsored content and ads.

The warehouse club campaigns ran in October and November. The Walmart campaign launched in December and focused on quick, healthy family meals during the holiday season.

“It’s great that we can use social media influencers to positively impact consumers’ perception of pork,” Sutton said. “And we are able to show retail partners that the Pork Checkoff’s shift to digital-first marketing is paying off for everyone who markets and sells it.”