The Other White Meat Is Dead Meat

March 8, 2011

This is John Reinan’s weekly marketing column for

A great advertising slogan has run its course after nearly 25 years. In case you missed it, the National Pork Board said Friday that it will no longer use “The Other White Meat” in its advertising.

The new slogan: “Pork: Be Inspired.”

I don’t find the new slogan all that inspiring, but I understand why the Pork Board wanted to try something new. Pork sales have been flat in recent years. Americans eat about 50 pounds of pork per person every year, compared with 61 pounds of beef and 80 pounds of chicken. (Minnesota is the nation’s No. 3 pork producer, behind Iowa and North Carolina.)

“The Other White Meat,” introduced in 1987, is credited with reversing a decline in pork consumption throughout the 1970s and ’80s. When it first appeared, I thought it was a great campaign, and obviously the Pork Board thought so, too. Few advertising themes last for a quarter of a century. And as you can see from the images here, the phrase long ago passed into the common language.

While the old campaign was pitched at raising general awareness of pork as an alternative to chicken, the new campaign is aimed at pork enthusiasts. According to the Pork Board, 28 percent of households consume 70 percent of the pork. The “Inspired” campaign aims to get these existing customers to buy more pork, rather than enticing newbies to try it out.

Despite my appreciation for the old campaign, this is probably a smart move by the Pork Board. There’s a longstanding principle of sales and marketing that has proven to be true time and again: the 80/20 rule.

Simply put, it holds that 80 percent of your sales will come from 20 percent of your customers. When I covered the agriculture and food industry in one of my reporting jobs, I often found myself citing production and sales statistics that upheld the 80/20 rule. Look at the Pork Board stats above– while not precise, they track the 80/20 rule pretty closely.

You could also call it the Willie Sutton Rule, after the famous thief who reputedly said he robbed banks because that’s where the money is. As a marketer, it makes a lot of sense to focus your attention on people who have already proven they’re willing to spend money on your products. It’s almost always easier to get an existing customer to increase their spend with you than it is to get a new prospect to try your product for the first time.

I credit the Pork Board with the courage to go in a new direction. But I also credit them with having created one of the more memorable ad campaigns in recent history. Any time you can create a slogan that lasts for almost 25 years and becomes a part of the language, you’ve done a great piece of marketing.