5 Ways to Dig into Digital Marketing

Remember the days (and sounds) of dial-up internet – kerrhh beep beep wurrh

What started as a way to simply store and share information, the internet’s explosive growth has paved the way for Digital Marketing, a full discipline and true necessity for companies. It’s big, it’s hairy and comes with widgets and plugins and data – oh my! But whether your goal is to build your brand or increase sales, marketing on the internet is critical to growing your business in today’s world.

So what does all of this mean for the meat industry – an industry rooted in cattle-calling and horseback, not Snapchat and Uber.

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Resolve to Own Protein in 2016

It’s easy to guess what the top New Year’s resolutions are every January:  lose weight, get in shape, eat better, right?  (Raise your hand if you’ve picked one of these.)

The start of a new year,shutterstock_334226393 when people enthusiastically resolve to focus on their health and wellness, is a great time to be in the fresh meat industry. In order to capitalize on all the ways that meat can help the health-conscious achieve their goals, it’s important to understand two key factors challenging today’s meat consumption.

Fad Diets are Trending Down

Although the new year is the perfect time to promote lean meat to help build muscle and lose fat, interest in high-protein diets like the Paleolithic Diet appears to be fading. According to Google Trends, online searches for “Paleolithic Diet,” “Primal Diet” and other high-protein diets have been dropping significantly since 2013, reaching an all-time low in 2015. Plant-based diets, however, appear to be on the rise.

So, all those folks who were flocking to the meat case for their high-protein fix aren’t so much these days. But while high-protein diets might be losing their appeal, balanced diets are always in style. So while you might not get as many Caveman dieters, you can still lure lots of folks who are trying to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Lean beef and pork deliver the high-quality protein every body needs all year long. We in the meat industry need to make sure consumers understand this.

Alternate Protein Sources aren’t Slowing Down

While Americans might be fickle about their fad diets, their love affair with protein seems to be going strong. Unfortunately for the meat industry, people are often choosing their protein in the dairy case instead of the meat case. The current Greek yogurt craze is just one example. Many consumers have shifted away from meat in the past year. According to our Protein and the Plate research:

  • 70% of consumers said they substitute non-meat protein for fresh meat once a week
  • 20% of meat eaters said they are replacing fresh meat more often than they did a year ago

While consumers have an increased awareness of the importance of protein, they aren’t always turning to one of the best sources on the planet to get it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the meat industry needs to OWN protein!  We are missing out if we don’t shout it from the rooftops and plaster it on the package and all marketing materials.

Fresh Meat:  The Perfect Diet Food

Let’s face it:  those gung-ho consumers with their New Year’s resolutions might not make it to the gym as often as they like (myself included), but there’s little doubt they’ll get to the grocery store. Be ready with products and messaging that help them start the new year on the right foot, with the right protein:  fresh meat.

The time is now to communicate how fresh meat is the ideal protein source for a healthy, balanced diet. Be sure your websites and social media posts are talking about it and start planning now to get this important messaging in store and on packages.

Check out these “Protein Builds” videos from Maple Leaf Foods that effectively relay the importance of protein in a healthy diet.

Leave a comment or email me directly at d.amstein@midanmarketing.com.  I love to hear from you!

2015 Recap: Pay attention to these 3 things

When the calendar hits December 1, it’s time to start checking to see if we made the “nice” list or not! (I have confirmed my status…how about you!?!)  As 2015 comes to a close, we also pause to reflect on the significant events that have shaped our industry this year, and consider how they might impact 2016.   As I look back across the major headlines from the past year, three main themes seem to form:

  1. Prices/Supply – Oh, what a roller coaster ride 2015 has been! Beef prices found new ceilings, pork prices leveled out before taking a nose dive the last few weeks. Was any topic more talked about in the media and meat company board rooms across the country this past year?  The good news is that 2016 is bringing greener pastures, literally, thanks to much-needed rain, so more cows are being retained.  Pork producers are also breathing a sigh of relief that the PEDv outbreak is behind them.  The conditions are ripe for increases in supply with less volatile pricing, and that is something we can all be thankful for!
  1. Niches – We live in a world where specialization is becoming the norm, not the exception, and this trend has resulted in niche meat brands and products that cater to specific lifestyle and dietary needs. For some consumers, antibiotic-free is a trigger; for others, it’s animal welfare. We stopped selling one-size-fits-all meat a while ago, and in 2015 we saw further fragmentation. It will serve us well to figure out which niches are feasible to cater to and then build the brands and products to meet those needs.
  1. Health/Wellness – 2015 brought its share of headlines that tied meat with health, like whether lean meat would still be part of the Dietary Guidelines or the IARC’s report that processed meat causes cancer. But when we’re talking about meat and health, let’s not forget protein. “Protein” is a word we have to continue fighting to own. Meat is the ultimate source of protein, and if you are not calling that out in your consumer messaging, it is time to get on the bandwagon.

As we wrap up 201shutterstock_328379666 (1)5, I encourage you to spend a few minutes thinking of the ramifications of these themes.  In order for us to succeed in 2016, we have to keep our pulse on what consumers are doing and what is influencing their behaviors.  What do you think?  Do you agree with my assessment or did I miss something?  What do you think the main headlines will be in 2016?  I always appreciate your comments.

Cheers to 2016!

Trade Publications – Are they being read?

At Midan Marketing, we like to get a full view of the fresh meat industry – from producers to consumers and everyone in between. When we’re not studying consumers who purchase and consume fresh meat products, we’re talking to retailers and packer/processors about everything from best processing and merchandising practices to technology and innovation.

Recently, we surveyed retailers and packer/processors to better understand their media consumption habits. We asked them about what they’re reading, how frequently they are reading and how they prefer to get their news. We’ve been conducting this survey every other year since 2009, and for the first time, saw some shifts in how the industry is receiving the news. Below are some of the key findings from the survey.

1. Too many magazines, too little time.iphone_in hand_v1
You’re not alone if you can’t find the time to get through your stack of industry reading; our survey indicates that 53% of your counterparts aren’t either.

2. Newsflash: print is old news.
It’s no surprise that the trend is moving strongly to online (online had the highest readership at more than 80%) and away from print (print’s highest readership was less than 30%). So, if you want to get the most bang for your advertising dollars, you should consider focusing more heavily on online.

3. Ads are getting noticed.
Retail advertising and trade articles are sparking an interest or leading to an inquiry or purchasing decision for 76% of respondents (73% in 2013).

4. Don’t be a meathead; get on the social media bandwagon!
While the industry continues to use Facebook (43%) and Twitter (28%) to promote their companies and brands, use of these sites is declining compared to previous years. The proliferation of newer social media outlets, including Instagram, may be diluting their use. If you want to catch up to today’s tech-savvy consumers, you need to adapt to new social platforms faster.

What do you think? Do these findings align with your media consumption habits? I’d love to hear your thoughts. To learn more about Midan’s public relations and creative communications capabilities, contact me at c.ahn@midanmarketing.com. Thanks for reading!

Bending Gender Roles at the Grill

Yes, I like pink, and I wear a lot of jingly bracelets. I love every show Shonda Rhimes has created and own more bottles of nail polish than I am proud of. I totally embrace that I am a girl who enjoys fabric shopping and trying new casseroles. While all of this is true, I also grew up playing competitive sports, drove dump trucks one summer in college and should buy stock in Anheuser-Busch. I would in no way consider myself a tomboy, but I am not afraid of getting my hands dirty.

So in the world of “anything you can do, I can do better,” why is it that to “man the grill” is so gender specific (and annoying)?

Jacob Brogan discusses the gender roles associated with grilling in his article Grillax, Bro” and I could not help but question a few points he presents. While I do agree that grilling appears to be a male-dominated sport, I do not view it as a “societal trap” where, if sucked in, men are somehow waving the white flag to gender stereotypes. Instead, I look at it is a shared interest. If I wanted to be the Grill Master in our home, then I would learn how to do so.  I just have had no desire to dethrone my husband of that title, and am more than content being the Sultan of Salad. After reading the article, however, I was moved to create a social experiment of sorts. What if my husband and I switched roles in the realm of meal prep? I could still wear my ballet flats and he could keep his work boots, but the tongs would be swapped – salad tongs for Robert, grilling tongs for me.

But first, let me take a grillfie.


First of all – silly me for thinking Robert would choose to prepare a salad. His side dish of choice: a squash and tomato casserole filled with cheese and bacon. I went with a fairly simple olive oil/vinegar ribeye marinade I found on Pinterest.  After we planned our meal, I made a list, because that’s what I do and he said “Well, I think I’ll just wing it!” So off we went to the grocery store, and the rest was delicious, gender-role-shattering history.


While I had never even touched our grill, I was not new to cooking or preparing meat. I love trying new marinades and smashing chicken with my husband’s hammer to make stuffed chicken (perhaps I didn’t do that right), so I was excited about tackling the whole process. I felt fairly comfortable behind the grill, and had only one terrifying moment when I thought our patio would face a fiery end.  Robert fared equally well, jamming through casserole prep while listening to The Allman Brothers Band – air guitar in one hand, wooden spoon in the other.

Although I do feel more comfortable in the indoor, stovetop and preheated oven arena of cooking, I did enjoy my time behind the piping grates and would definitely do it again.

So what does our little experiment say about gender stereotypes and grilling?  Robert learned to grill by watching his dad and picking up tricks of the trade.  It’s what he’s comfortable with and good at.  But just because men have manned the grill since cavemen first rubbed two sticks together doesn’t mean there isn’t room by the fire for the females, especially millennial females like me.  We’re more likely to make grilling social (see my food pix on Instagram!), turn to our phone or tablet for recipe ideas (Pinterest is my go-to) and not be afraid to shake up age-old myths that only men are good at grilling.

Here’s to girl power at the grill!

Mining Targets for Creative Insights Pays Off

Basic marketing tells us that in order for someone to pay attention to a message, it has to be relevant to them. So how do you make your messages relevant? You get to know your target. You can scream “buy me, buy me” all you want, but when people are exposed to tons of ads a day, you won’t break through unless you strike a nerve with your intended audience.

Here at Midan, in order to develop communications for our clients that are relevant and attention- grabbing, we get to know the needs and wants of the target. We conduct primary research or review secondary research in order to understand how the product or service fits in the target’s life. To me, there is no better way get to know your target than to talk with them face to face. Even if it’s only five minutes in a grocery store, you can learn about who they are as people and what the product means to them. I discovered this firsthand when I conducted consumer intercepts for various clients’ meat brands.

When getting to know a target, the most important question I try to answer is, “What problem does my product or service solve for the target beyond a simple functional benefit?” Great creative thought starters that lead to a compelling message usually lie beyond the functional benefit. If you don’t uncover those unexpected insights that connect the target with the product, often times the creative team is not set up for success. If the creative team doesn’t have those connections, their message will be too broad and won’t directly speak to the target.

A great example of this concept happened when we developed a promotion for Tyson’s Chairman’s Reserve® Premium Meats brand. We conducted in-store interviews and discovered that our core meat-loving target would drive pretty far out of their way to go to a store they knew had better meat. They weren’t willing to settle for what was convenient. They loved higher quality meat and made getting it a priority. This insight led our creative team to the “Never Settle” campaign, which reminded consumers that they shouldn’t ever settle when it comes to the premium beef and pork they are putting on their table.

Digging a little deeper and really connecting with our target audience uncovered a way for us to develop strong creative with spot-on messaging. So even if you think you already know your target, take the time to excavate beyond the surface. You are likely to expose the kind of insights that can lead to a creative gold mine.

Going Beyond Design

these-ancient-writing-utensils-may-actually-help-to-keep-your-fragile-mind-intactOne thing I always think about is: What makes a great designer?

Could it be the amazing typography? Or is it the excellent layout skills? Or perhaps it is the ability to design different styles catered to different industries and niches. I believe all of these things are key to helping one grow as a designer. But if we look past the swatch books and the Photoshop, we discover another crucial part – being able to write.

Writing is a large part of what designers and art directors do on a daily basis. We write letters and proposals, send emails to clients and develop content for websites and blogs. Writing helps you expand your skill set and helps broaden your capabilities to set you apart, not only as someone that can make things look pretty, but someone who can communicate past the visuals.

Being able to write also builds confidence. By writing, you become more knowledgeable in that field and have the confidence to give tips and tutorials, eventually becoming a mentor to others. It also becomes valuable when working directly with copywriters.

I love the fact that I work at a company that gives employees the opportunity to exercise their writing skills, no matter what position you’re in. Here is a quote that I came across that I feel truly hits the nail on the head:

When you write, you share
When you share, you help
When you help, you make the world better
When the world becomes better, living becomes easier
Living easily means more happy people
Happy people are inspired people
When people are inspired, they share
And what they want to share, they write


My First Photo Shoot

072914 Photoshoot 4 I recently had the opportunity to participate in my first photo shoot. We planned a day shoot and the goal was to capture a culinary shot plus three, possibly four, product shots. Once we received client approval on photographer and location, we had a pre-production call with the photography team. The team included the photographer, photographer’s assistant, food stylist, assistant food stylist, prop stylist and art director (in addition to our client, Greg and me). During the call, we walked through the plan that the photography art director had put together. We discussed each photo and planned out how we wanted the shoot to flow. On the day of the shoot, I was at the Charlotte airport bright and early. This was also my first trip to Chicago and I wanted to experience as much of it as possible so I made sure I had a window seat on the plane – I really enjoyed the view of the downtown area as we flew over Lake Michigan. After we landed, I took the ‘L’ train (as I learned from Allison, our admin in the Chicago office) to the nearest station to the photography studio. As I traveled the rest of the way to the studio, I noticed three distinctive things about Chicago: the ‘L’ train ran really close to some buildings (mainly houses and apartments), there were lots of really great murals and graffiti on various structures and that more people rode their bikes in this city than any other I had ever been to. When I arrived, the photo team was already preparing the food and lighting. I really appreciated the creative environment of the studio – it was open, with lots of natural light and easy access to the outside. As we waited for the client to arrive, we started setting up for the culinary shot. I was volunteered to be the hand model, so I put on an apron and stood behind the table as the prop stylist set up the location of all of the cooking items. I didn’t mind being in the photo because it gave me an opportunity to get a closer look at how the food was set up and how to take direction from the photographer. Once the food was ready, the food stylist carefully placed the meat sauce on top of the pasta that was on the plate. I held the skillet of sauce in one hand and a spoon full of sauce in the other and slowly moved the spoon back 072914 Photoshoot 1and forth from the pan across the late of pasta as the photographer took multiple shots. The rest of the photos were shot close up and in shallow focus. Lighting seemed like it was the most difficult for the team to set up – the main issue being the color differences in the products. We needed more light for the beef, but not so much that the details in the bread were lost. We used stand-in product to get the shot set up and then, once we had everything in the place we wanted it, the food stylist would come in with the best product and do her magic. She used paint brushes and tweezers and all kinds of other tools to make sure the food looked great (even if it wasn’t going to be edible when she was finished with it). I liked watching the stylists and the photographer as they set up before we took the final photo – the smallest tweak in lighting, camera location or placement of a prop could change the entire photo. I don’t think most people realize how much work goes into making a photo of a simple burger look so enticing. 072914 Photoshoot 6By the end of the day, we were able to get all of the shots in that we had planned on. I’ve worked with the planning part of the photography process before, but it was a really great experience to be able to have input while the photographs were being taken; not to mention how much easier it made the design process once the photos were complete. I think food photography is such an interesting thing to be a part of and I’m looking forward to being more involved in that process in the future.

You Only Get One Shot…Don’t Blow It!

shutterstock_156863096People make snap judgments; in fact, it only takes a tenth of a second to form a first impression about someone. Websites are no different. Almost immediately, a user will form an opinion of a site, which in turn will determine whether he or she stays or leaves.

Having a functional website can be the difference between success and falling flat on your face. So what can you do to ensure your website is firing on all cylinders? Give the following tips a try:

1 – What is your purpose? What do you want your site to do for you? Many sites are too broad and lack focus, it’s important to add and maintain content that stays true to your goals.

2 – It’s no secret that a user’s attention span gets shorter by the day. In order to take advantage of those precious seconds, grab your reader’s attention with the most important information. The name of the game isn’t to make your site bright and shiny, but to place emphasis properly in order to achieve your goal.

3 – Create valuable information! If your content is outdated, poorly edited or incomplete, readers will feel cheated and most likely look for a different source the next time they search the topic.

4 – Mobile, Mobile, Mobile! Is your website responsive? If not, you run the risk of losing your reader, instantly. As mobile internet usage continues to increase, it becomes more important to make sure your site is mobile-friendly. Not only is a responsive design conducive to a great user experience, but Google loves it! It will also help save money on future development since there will only be one framework for multiple devices. As tablets and smartphones continue to root themselves into the fabric of daily lives, a responsive design is an absolute must.

5 – Avoid clutter.  Your reader needs some space. Images and animation are great, if used appropriately. To keep readers on your site, keep navigation simple.  Avoid elements that compete for attention, and always draw the reader’s eye to the information they need most.

6 – There are millions of websites out there…how will my audience find me? Most website traffic comes from a search engine. This is why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is so important. SEO is a series of techniques that helps the visibility of your website. Double check that your content matches your purpose and don’t forget about meta data!

7 – Don’t settle for a good website…strive for greatness! Creating and maintaining a great website is a big responsibility; give it the time it deserves.

Mastering the Art of Work and Life

Do you have those awful nightmares where everything is going wrong that could possibly go wrong at your job? I’m here to let you know, you aren’t alone. Just recently I had a dream I filled out all of my timesheets incorrectly and woke up in a cold sweat. Luckily for us, there is an easy fix to this anxiety: managing a healthy work-life balance.

The concept of a work-life balance has been a popular topic recently. Time  and Harvard Business Review have published articles on it in the last three months. Huffington Post has a tag on relevant articles dedicated to this topic, author Nigel Marsh presented a TED Talk about balancing work and life, even WebMD provides tips for a better work-life balance. So if this topic is so popular right now, then why do so many people still struggle to achieve this balance?

Here are my tips for successfully maintaining a work-life balance:

  1. Don’t take work home with you. This one may seem obvious, but it’s important. You need to create a separation between work and home. If the line between the two is blurry, then you are more likely to still be thinking about work long after the office doors close for the day. If you are part of the growing trend of people who work at home, designate a specific room or area of your house as your work space and don’t let your work leave those confines.
  2. Power down. Technology is great. It allows us to be connected 24/7 and has made a lot of things easier in the business world.  But being plugged in all of the time can keep you from focusing on the things important to you outside of work. I’m guilty of checking my work email way too frequently on the weekends, which typically leads to thinking about what I need to get accomplished during the upcoming week and keeps me from enjoying my down time.
  3. Do that thing you’ve been meaning to do. Go on a hike. Ride a tandem bicycle with your friends. Heck, take a bubble bath. Sometimes we get so caught up being busy we don’t take time to do things we enjoy. Personally, to help with this I’ve created a list of things I want to do or places nearby I want to visit, including museums, hiking trails and parks. By doing this, I get the satisfaction of doing something new for myself and I get to cross things off of a list – which helps me feel productive.
  4. Schedule down time. Okay, so you tried to follow steps 1-3, but you still can’t seem to pull yourself away from work. I understand, you’re just that important! Your time is a commodity and everyone wants a piece of you. Your calendar is booked with more meetings than the president of the United States. Try this: schedule down time in your calendar. No, you aren’t allowed to double book this time or cancel it. This may be difficult initially, but taking time for yourself can be very beneficial to achieving a nice work-life balance.

Now you may be asking yourself, “Why is having a balanced work-life so important?” You may enjoy being busy, staying focused and working hard, and that’s perfectly fine. However, focusing your attention on life outside of work will allow you to seek inspiration elsewhere and get your creative juices flowing. You will be more energized and focused on the task at hand when you walk in to your job, allowing you to work more efficiently.