May 27, 2020

by Nigel Hollis

Why on earth would a brand of sliced frozen steaks be promoting data science on Twitter? Because the marketers behind the brand know that to be noticed and remembered a brand’s content needs to stand out from the crowd. Steak-umm’s social success highlights many of the basic principles of advertising success in general.

Even though I have been a US resident for more years than I care to think about I have to admit that Steak-umm is not a brand with which I was familiar until recently. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like a Philly cheesesteak as much as the next person, but I must have missed out on Steak-umm’s heyday. Bill Pink, one of my colleagues here at Kantar, describes the brand as follows,

“They are a Pennsylvania based business that was a “staple” lunch or hangover meal for folks around my age that grew up in the U.S.  I had not heard or thought about them for years, and then they took on this social media persona of the defenders of data, science, … and then have had a resurgence tied to it.  Fascinating posts and dialogue on the Twitter feed, ranging from debates about what to believe and how to use data to a renewed enthusiasm in processed / grilled meat for lunch.”

Given that the Great Lockdown will have left many at home wondering what to serve for lunch, and others seeking comfort in the familiar, it makes sense to advertise a brand that might otherwise have been forgotten. But what to say? To quote Ben Shaw and Jack Colchester again,

“The cardinal sin on social is dullness.”

And if you don’t want to be dull then addressing an underlying societal tension is not a bad way to go. In this time of misinformation, rumor and division, this tweet (which might otherwise have come from Kantar) struck a chord with many,

"Friendly reminder in times of uncertainty and misinformation: anecdotes are not data. (good) data is carefully measured and collected information based on a range of subject-dependent factors, including, but not limited to, controlled variables, meta-analysis, and randomization."

A quick look at Google Trends shows that searches for Steak-umm went up by a factor of five the week that the tweet went live. The brand’s tweets have sparked a positive response, particularly with those scientists who feel their calling is being undermined and caused more than a few people to buy the brand for the first time in years. For instance, Nick tweeted, “I just bought @steak_umm for the first time in 20 years and it is ENTIRELY to support their Twitter account.”

But, to misquote the old proverb, one tweet does not a summer make. While many people will have rediscovered the brand or tried it for the first time, the question facing the marketing team is can they keep the momentum going? As always, other media channels have been keen to cover the brand’s Twitter success – once again, a distinctive story gets more traction – and although Steak-umm is reported to have doubled its Twitter following in about a week following the post, I would suggest that it is going to have to reach more than 166,000 people if it is to build on its initial success. Google Trends already suggests that the brand’s salience is starting to wane, with searches dropping steadily (and predictably) back toward their original level.

Budget allowing, perhaps the smartest thing Steak-umm could do now is extend the campaign into other media channels and take control of its own destiny. The Twittersphere abounds with one hit wonders, but the idea of Steak-umm as a defender of truth in information clearly resonates with a sizeable audience and could prove the basis for a paid media campaign. If spot TV is too expensive, what about advertising on radio, podcasts or music streams? There are many different ways to extend the reach of the campaign, and I suspect that there is still a lot of latent demand to be tapped if the brand does it right.

But what do you think? Please share your thoughts.


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