Sam Elliott is something of an icon in the beef sphere. In the 1990s, his deep Western drawl, paired with the background music of Aaron Copland, was the voice of the "Beef, It's What's For Dinner" campaign.
However, when it comes to reaching today's millennial consumers, Adam Wegner, Director of Marketing at the Nebraska Beef Council, says, "That doesn't work with them. They don't pay attention to billboards, they don't watch T.V. – if they do it's been DVR'd – and they don't really listen to radio anymore when they've got Pandora and their iPods."
These millennials – consumers born from 1980 to 2000 – are the largest generation of consumers at 80 million strong, and represent about $200 billion in spending power in the U.S. "Like it or not they're going to be in control in a lot of the economy as we move forward. They're going to have a lot of buying power," Wegner says. "We have to pay attention to them."
When it comes to how they eat, millennials differ from older generations. According to Beef Checkoff research, 38% of millennials eat at restaurants at least two to three times a week. For millennials, the dining experience is just as important as the food itself, and they like to share information about what they're eating.
They're what Wegner calls "hyper connected," spending a lot of their time on smartphones, browsing the Internet or on social media, have a "fear of missing out" when they aren't connected, and are a "show me, don't tell me" generation, preferring to see how something is done, often via do-it-yourself video.
That's why it's important to reach millennials where they spend the most time – online. Beef Checkoff has some new tools at its disposal for accomplishing this.
This includes working with Google. A search for beef recipes will yield the "Beef, It's What's For Dinner" website as a top result, with links to recipes and videos showing how to cook those recipes.
According to 2013 Nielsen survey data, 84% of smartphone users use their phones while watching television and 18% read online conversations about a program while they're watching it – including food programs. Working with the Social Broadcast System, Checkoff staff are alerted when keywords associated with beef are used on these programs, and participate in conversations while they're happening.
Millennials also pay attention to label information like expiration dates and sell by dates, and as Wegner notes, "If they have any question at all they'll probably throw it away." So, Checkoff is working on labels that give better information on that product and turn different colors once it expires to help them know when to use beef and when not to.
However, changing the way millennials shop at the meat counter also means informing them how to prepare certain cuts and prepare certain meals. The "Beef, It's What's For Dinner" website now has an Interactive Butcher Counter tool, also available as a smartphone app, which consumers can use to find preparation methods and meal recipes by selecting a cut at the meat counter.
"The future is now," Wegner says. "We're realizing this new generation is just now becoming part of the majority owner when it comes to the dollar, eventually they'll be there. Why not be in front of it? Why not be ready for that moment when it happens as opposed to reacting to it?"
For more information, contact Wegner at [email protected].
More information will be available in an upcoming Nebraska Farmer article.