The goal should be more of consumption of beef, period

Competition It’s from pork, poultry, lamb and fish, 
not from other Canadian beef producers

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At its recent semi-annual meeting in Edmonton, Alberta Beef Producers unveiled its latest promotion slogan: “Alberta Beef — Famous Taste.”

It’s another version of a long-running beef consumption campaign that started some 40 years ago. Some of those campaigns, which are revamped every few years, are more successful than others. Perhaps the most successful in the past were the Ranchers/RancHers campaigns which started with the Calgary Olympics and ran more or less for another 10 years. Those campaigns, which played on a male/female version on the same theme, garnered numerous advertising awards and international recognition.

But therein lies the rub, as the old saying goes. The unfortunate reality is that the beef industry is unwillingly confining an iconic national/international beef brand to essentially one province. It’s a promotion situation that drives most industry marketers and ad agency people to shake their heads in both dismay and amazement at watching a golden advertising opportunity being wasted.

The irony is that this lost opportunity is mostly self-inflicted by the cattle industry — a classic shoot yourself in the foot to save political face. That may seem to be good politics and soothing to some egos in other provinces, but it doesn’t sell any more beef. The political assumption is that promoting “Alberta Beef” on a national basis would offend the sensibilities of beef producers in other provinces who would see it as an indirect aspersion against the quality of beef produced in other parts of the country.

To any marketer that assumption misses the point — cattle producers don’t buy beef, consumers do, and if they believe Alberta branded beef is better, than it behooves the beef industry to sell them as much Alberta beef as they want no matter where they live.

Two matters come to mind when contemplating a national Alberta beef promotion. The first, not unexpectantly, is that not all beef is produced in Alberta.

Well, yes and no. Actually under present origin labelling definitions, 70 per cent of the beef produced in Canada is produced in Alberta, since that most cattle in much of the country at one point in their lives are fed or processed in this province.

The other matter is that we have a national beef promotion agency, Canada Beef Inc., that is in the business of promoting either generic beef or Canadian beef on a national basis. It has no mandate to promote any other branded beef and would surely avoid any thoughts of promoting the Alberta Beef brand. As beef marketers they might secretly see the logic in this opportunity, but they would want to have complete political support from the industry, and that would mean all provincial cattle groups and the CCA — not much chance of that.

A well-known rule in the advertising business is “perception is reality,” and that is something the beef industry needs to embrace in this case. Ad agency research has shown that Canadian consumers recognize Alberta beef as a superior-quality brand, including Canadian Beef. In the advertising business that means “top of mind” and sellers of any product are willing to spend millions to get the consumer to that state of mind about their product.

Well hello, the beef industry is already there with the Alberta Beef brand. One only has to look at how successful the Angus brand has become with such targeted “top of mind” perception branding. Could that be further stretched to an “Alberta Angus Beef” brand? But again I digress to wishful thinking.

On a side note, the iconic value of the Alberta Beef brand is well known in the advertising braintrust. In the new Alberta Beef campaign those clever masterminds at AdFarm, the agency that created the campaign, shrewdly inserted two images in the program graphics that resonated with many at the ABP delegate meeting. Those images showed a graphic photo of a pickup truck with an Alberta Beef bumper sticker driving down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées in Paris, and a similar sticker on an image of a gondola on the Grand Canal in Venice. Now that’s looking at Alberta Beef in the big picture and the big potential, and that’s what is needed to positively affect consumer perceptions about our beef.

In the end, the cattle and beef industry needs to look reality in the face — the competition is from the other meats, poultry, fish and pork, and not from each other. They should completely set provincial chauvinism aside and cut their marketers loose to use every promotion angle possible, including Alberta beef nationally, to increase beef consumption.

One presumes that more consumption is the goal, or is that just more wishful thinking?

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