I tried it! Unfortunately, I can say that only from my miserable attempt to get hold of a pack of coveted Beyond Meat Burger at the local discount store. Within the first ten minutes of shop opening, the hype burger patties supplied by the California food producer had already been completely grazed. Even the sensational stock market launch of Beyond Meat with temporary gains of up to 600 percent speaks for itself. Why is that? The number of vegans has risen in recent years, but with around one million people in Germany still on a manageable level.
Value change is changing consumer habits and media planning
If you look more closely at the topic, it quickly becomes clear that the new vegan products are aimed at a much broader target group than the gaunt cliché vegans of the 90s. They are designed for the masses and are driven by three major value-based consumer trends:
- The current Fitness and health trend: Meat substitutes are considered healthier because they contain no cholesterol and less unsaturated fatty acids.
- Of the Desire for more environmental protection is getting bigger and bigger and animal products are very energy consuming in production.
- After the animal and meat scandals of recent years is also the Desire for more animal welfare getting bigger.
If one looks at these developments from a media perspective, it becomes clear once again that a classical target group selection based on socio-demographic characteristics is not effective. Vegan-oriented consumer groups are more interconnected by common values and motives than by age or gender – and this is where psychographic targeting comes in, providing a smarter solution to value-based customer engagement.
Psychography is an approach from personality psychology that deals with the motives of human action. Psychographic targeting complements the classic target group description with profiles on motives, attitudes and personality traits. New approaches in media planning thus achieve a better effect, since the value settings of the respective target group are also coordinated with the various advertising environments. So you can find those environments that fit perfectly to the brand or the product.
Messages for the masses and relevant campaign strategies
Why the unprecedented boom so suddenly started, although meatless alternatives existed for a long time, answered in addition to the mass-suitable taste experience, the more active and changed marketing of the products. The product communication around the meatless hamburger is not designed for the vegan-vegetarian target group, but is aimed specifically at meat and fast food lovers.
“The only consumer we care about is the hardcore meat lover.” Interestingly, this phrase has become a kind of mantra for Impossible Foods CEO Pat Brown, one of Beyond Meat’s main competitors. According to the company founder, vegetarians and vegans are not among the most relevant consumers for him – comprehensible, considering that his company is a supplier to Burger King and the basis of the vegan Impossible Whoppers; and Burger King advertises its vegan product with the unmistakable taste of the original and vegan burgers.
The message of the national McDonald’s promotional video for the launch of their vegan Burgers (“Believe it or not: not only tastes world improvers.”) Illustrates which target group should be achieved: McDonald’s plays with the clichéd contrast between eco-activist and lumberjack – together final burger reconciliation. What should stay with the consumer, is clear: meatless burgers are not only something for female world improvers, but for all.
A slightly different marketing strategy was chosen by British supermarket chain Sainsbury: as part of the World Meat Free Week, they opened a meatless pop-up butcher shop to teach consumers how to prepare food with plant-based meat alternatives offered by Sainsbury – and certainly to get a lot of media attention with this unique action. This highlights, above all, the importance of a sophisticated campaign strategy that skilfully plays with consumer trends, entertains consumers, and at the same time adds value to consumers. Because in times of daily bombardment with countless “one-size-fits-all” advertising messages, contextual relevance is the key to more attention and thus the basis for a successful campaign.
Is the wind slowing down around vegan topics?
If you look at the current hype around Beyond Meat with a certain amount of time, you realize that the media hype is leveling off a bit. However, due to the observed change in values, it would be a mistake to assume that it will now be quieter again around plant-based products. The tsunami of vegan alternatives will also cause a stir in other industries (from shoes to cosmetics) as long as brands skilfully serve the major consumer trends while aligning their communication strategies to changing values - detached from the stereotypes of the past. Media planning provides the right solution with psychographic targeting.
Magnus Gebauer is an avid trend researcher and senior consultant at the Mediaplus Group, where he analyzes the consequences of societal, economic and technological changes and advises them on their effects.