Say It Ain’t So: Pork Goes from Hero to Zero
For me, it was like someone saying the Louvre decided to throw out the Mona Lisa. “Pork is the Other White Meat” qualifies as one of the most inspired selling taglines of all times. I’ve used it in speeches around the world as an example of just what great positioning can do. Back in 1987 when agencies still seemed to know how selling worked, and a lot of health pundits were talking up the evils of red meat, someone at the Pork Board decided to re-frame the whole idea of pork in six words, so that more health conscious consumers could give themselves permission to eat it. They gave it a tag that passed every test of tagline brilliance. “Pork is the other white meat” was specific, was something no one else could say or own, it used a vivid word picture, it had an unexpected twist in the story, it had a creative lilt, it was easy to remember and say and it moved mountains. Millions of consumers said, “Gee– I didn’t know that” and decided in those three seconds to think differently about one of the most ancient staples in the human food chain. Those six words made it okay to eat more of what they loved. Pork sales skyrocketed. It was a Micro-Script that was repeated the world round.
It was just reported to me that a new marketing director at the Pork Board–that’s how it often happens– decided that the Mona Lisa had become obsolete. She said, we need to associate Pork with a higher emotional benefit. Because of course, some guy eating a BLT in Des Moines wants to be more emotionally involved with his bacon. And don’t you know– “buying is an emotional decision.” So lets tell our consumers they are supposed to be more emotional when they think about Pork and they’ll comply. We will change one of the greatest Dominant Selling Idea taglines of all times to…
Every rule I ran through above is erased here. There is literally, No selling idea. No promise, no insight, no unique value, no memorable hook– no nothin. It’s a weak supplication for the hope of a generic aspiration that a giant organization would wish you might have, like they have. I’ve been implored with these exact same words for decades by banks, by schools, by clothing makers, by drug companies–it doesn’t matter. But maybe the most misguided mistake here, and the lesson for anyone listening is this:
You don’t create emotion in any buyer by telling them to be emotional, or creating some fictional drama around the message. You can only trigger an emotion that’s already there, in the mind of the beholder. You can only do that by delivering an Idea that convinces me your product will make my life better–will take away my pain, give me pleasure I didn’t have, make me safer, sexier, happier, healthier or richer. If out of a billion messages going by per second, you show me in a credible way that you can actually do that– then I will supply all the emotion, more powerfully custom made to my brain, my life and needs than your telling me ever could. Your idea must TRIGGER my emotional response, not declare I’m supposed to have one.
Anyway, I have been too traumatized since learning about this insult to the hallowed memory of the Brand Titans like Rosser Reeves and David Ogilvy, that I have been unable to lift my despondent fingers to the key board, until this moment. I don’t know what some modern marketers could be thinking. But in this case, it can’t be good.
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