Source: Bill Even, pork.org

The level of skill and commitment that our servicemen and women bring to their jobs always inspires me. It also reminds me of just how much is on the line. Any of you probably have family members who have served or are currently serving in the U.S. military. My dad served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War, and my uncle was in the U.S. Army in Korea and Japan in the 1950s. I also am proud that my son Anthony recently enlisted in the South Dakota Air National Guard.

Consider Army scouts. These specialists are the eyes and ears of the commander, reporting on the terrain ahead, assessing current conditions, tracking and reporting the opponent’s movements and directing the deployment of resources where they are needed most. Effective scouts are force multipliers who drive the effectiveness of the group.

National Pork Board members are the scouts for the pork industry. Our job is to ride ahead, see what is coming and help our producers and supply chain partners prepare for challenges and opportunities ahead. Our new business-to-business (B2B) focus is a force multiplier that is amplifying the Pork Checkoff’s efforts to enhance pork producers’ profit potential.

This B2B approach comes along at a time when we have momentum on our side, including record U.S. pork exports. Now is a great time to move at the speed of business by focusing on the following:

Being the Trusted B2B Expert

For the first time in 30 years, we are shifting the bulk of Pork Checkoff domestic marketing dollars away from generic consumer advertising and refocusing them on a research-driven, B2B approach. Consolidation in the pork supply chain is moving the industry away from generic commodity pork and is fueling the rise of branded pork products.

While we are certainly not abandoning consumer messaging, we are repositioning the Pork Board as a trusted consultant, providing meat packers, retailers and foodservice partners with the latest fact-heavy, assumption-light market insights that they cannot find anywhere else.

In-depth Focus on Pork Market Research

We not only want to be viewed as the expert for all things pork; we are prepared to earn this title. For the first time in Pork Checkoff history, we are surveying the pork marketing landscape to get a robust 360-degree view of the current consumer environment.

We are conducting in-depth qualitative and quantitative research of U.S. consumers across age, gender, income, geography, ethnicity, food preferences and other factors. We want to know what motivates people to buy pork and what factors (including production issues) are barriers to pork purchases. As we uncover these insights, we will fund pilot projects with the supply chain to test ideas designed to drive pork sales and profitability.

Collaborating with State Pork Associations

We look forward to sharing this knowledge not only with supply chain partners but also with state pork associations. State pork association staff have innovative ideas for pork promotion and consumer education, and we want to find ways these ideas can do double duty at the state and national level.

We have named Kylee Deniz as director of state marketing and producer outreach to serve as the point person dedicated to working with state association staff specifically on domestic marketing efforts.

We are moving away from the old restrictive “cookbook model” that listed predesigned programs, advertising and cost-share funding to create a more collaborative process where marketing programs can be tailored to the needs of each state pork association. We want to add flexibility to Checkoff cost-share dollars earmarked for this purpose.

Refining Pork’s Digital Strategy

Today’s consumers live in the digital realm, but this space also contains a massive amount of noise. Like before last year’s consolidation of pork.org, the Checkoff is currently operating tactically through many different social media accounts and email delivery platforms, each based on unique audiences.

We are preparing to launch a comprehensive “digital first” approach to Checkoff messaging. The strategic approach includes six specific steps, including identifying pork producer and industry needs, developing a strategy with our industry partners, evaluating target audiences, defining ideal distribution mediums, creating specialized content that fits the chosen distribution channel and then monitoring and adjusting messages via analytics.

The goal is to elevate our reach, cut through the clutter, build critical mass and speak with a stronger voice to tell pork producers’ stories about our commitment to social responsibility through our sustainability, We CareSM, and animal well-being programs.

Elevating International Marketing Action

The great news? U.S. pork exports reached an all-time record of 5.399 billion pounds in 2017. However, U.S. pork is facing increasingly sophisticated competition from the EU and beyond.

The Pork Board approved a 9 percent increase in funding to $8.7 million for export development in 2018, and we are working closely with USMEF to investigate international consumer demographic research opportunities to better understand our international markets and tap into emerging international marketing opportunities.

Boosting ROI

All of these efforts revolve around delivering a good return on investment (ROI). In 2017, a new study (see page 32) showed that U.S. pig farmers received an outstanding 25 to 1 return on their Pork Checkoff investment, the highest ROI of any checkoff in the ag industry.

But we cannot coast on our success. Just like Army scouts, we will continue to prepare for new challenges, to spot opportunities and to work together to remain the force multiplier that maximizes your Pork Checkoff investment and profit potential.