Chad Nicholson
Vice President of Marketing
Farmland Foods

Chad Nicholson, vice president of marketing for the Farmland brands at Farmland Foods, talks to Andy Hanacek, editor-in-chief, about the refresh of the Farmland brand -- what prompted the changes and what opportunities the new marketing efforts bring Farmland Foods.

Listen to the conversation.

Read more about new Farmland Food products.

Complete interview transcription
Andy Hanacek: Hi there listeners, and welcome to our lastest podcast episode. Today I am sitting here with Chad Nicholson, who is Vice President of Marketing for the Farmland brands at Farmland Foods. Today we're going to talk about a pretty exciting piece of news. Farmland Foods, the Farmland brands, are getting a makeover. We ran this release a few weeks or a month or so ago, and I've actually gotten a chance here to sit down with Chad. Chad, I thank you for your time. Let's talk a little bit about this makeover and see what you guys have to offer, what it brings to the table and how it renovates the brand. Thank you for joining me.

Chad Nicholson: Thank you. Sounds good. I'm looking forward to the conversation.

Hanacek: Alright Chad, so give me the 40,000 foot overview I guess here. What is the overall concept here behind the brand renovation, the makeover as the release called it? What's the point, I guess, to be as blunt as possible

Nicholson: Right. I think the makeover is a result of some prior work. I think it probably makes sense to talk about what led us to doing what we're calling the makeover. It really started with us going out and talking and identifying who the different types of pork consumers were that are out there today. We did a very extensive piece of work that identified who they were, that identified what needs they have, what are their purchase drivers and what they're looking for today out of various pork brands. What we did was we took that information, we went out, we talked to these consumer groups in a little bit more depth and detail about the Farmland brand, and specifically what they thought of the Farmland brand, the current image of the Farmland brand, what it was doing right, what it could be doing better and what we could say about ourselves to be able to make ourselves relevant to these different types of consumers. Also, to stand out from the competition so that we would be noticed. Out of that came what we really consider to be our new brand positioning in which, for us and what you're going to see and what you see in the makeover, is really communicating to the consumers out there the passion and pride we have in what we do everyday which is pork specifically, both on the fresh and processed side of things. What you see in the makeover is just an extension of that.

Hanacek: How long ago did you start that research or was that just sort of ongoing research and something just kind of popped out of there that you said, "Wait a minute, we've got to dig further into this." Give me a little more insight into that research, how long it took and how long ago you started it.

Nicholson: It started roughly two years ago. What it was was basically a segmentation survey that we did. What we got out of it was essentially the insight that there's six different types of pork consumers out there. We also looked at where they consume pork and so what were the different usage occasions that they were using pork in and why they used pork in those occasions and what the benefits were that they were seeking. Through that information, like I said, we then went out and we talked to the consumers. From there, when we knew what we needed to say about the Farmland brand to be able to stand out and to be relevant to these consumers that we had identified, from there it was a process of taking that information and really having it come to life. That has come to life through our new T.V. campaign, which we call "For The Love Of Pork". You also see it through the new packaging that is now hitting the marketplace. You see if it you were to go onto or our Facebook page. We have a whole new look there as well with some new messaging around the Farmland brand. We also have some things going on at retail which are some shopper marketing initiatives, all related back to our passion and pride in pork and for the love of pork. Really between the time we identified who the consumers are we wanted to go target and the time we had this thing rolled out, it was close to two years.

Hanacek: That's a perfect transition to what I was going to ask next. The T.V. spots, "For The Love Of Pork", "For The Love Of Bacon", et cetera and you mentioning the passion, are you just chasing after kind of consumers who love pork and have a passion for pork or is there a subset of the consumer marketplace that you're chasing with the particular message?

Nicholson: What we at least found out in the work that we had did is that there are a sizeable number of pork consumers out there that truly have a passion for the product and they truly enjoy cooking with it, preparing meals with it and entertaining people at their homes and actually showing off what they can do creatively. Pork lends itself very well to doing those types of things just because of its versatility and its flavor. With that type of passion that they have for it and the pride that they took in serving meals, it was very clear to us that they were really drawn to brands that they knew shared that same pride and passion in what we do. That's really what led us down that path. That comes to life through the T.V. spots, "For The Love Of Pork,” "For The Love Of Bacon,” we're also going to have a holiday spot that's going to be debuted in November around Thanksgiving time that really shows how the Farmland brand and the different items we produce are a part of those holiday traditions. On top of it, that's what led us then to where we needed to go ahead and take a look at the packaging, we needed to take a look at what we were doing online and those types of things. It's really all the trying and capitalizing on those pork consumers out there that we know have a lot of passion for what they do and take a lot of pride in what they do.

Hanacek: Okay. Now the answer may be both but I'm going to ask anyway, is this message meant to assist more within Farmland's current distribution network or is it meant to help Farmland expand beyond where it currently distributes product? I only ask this because of our recent cover story on Oven Perfect and the work being done there to kind of promote that both within and beyond the distribution boundaries as they lay right now. How does this message kind of fit into that strategy? Is it more for within the boundaries or to expand those boundaries?

Nicholson: So you're right, the answer is both, but what I'll give a little bit more detail on is the fact that… So the work that we did and where we landed and where we're going, we feel very confident that it can live across, whether it's what a current what would be a core Farmland market and/or some of the markets that we might be expanding to in the future. Really what we learned is that the attitudes and behaviors of these consumers and the mindset in which they approach the category is the same whether they're in the Midwest or whether they're in the West or whether they're in the East. Now there may be some differences here and there, but for the most part, the attitudes and the behaviors are what are common and it really doesn't matter where you live and/or if you're familiar with the brand or not, this is a way for us to be able to express who we are to these consumers. We feel like it works, whether it's in a market that people are familiar with Farmland brand or it's a market where they may not be as familiar.

Hanacek: How long had it been prior… since, I guess, the last what you might call brand refresh for Farmland brand, had it been a long time? Did that kind of factor in that the time is right now to do this or is this something that Farmland looks at relatively frequently?

Nicholson: To my understanding, because I've been with Farmland now for just a couple of years, or just over a couple of years, it certainly was common for Farmland to get out and talk to the consumers and understand some of the attitudes and usage behaviors of the brand versus some of the other brands out there and/or just to get a pulse on the consumer and what they were doing. I think to the level of which we went out this time to really understand, not just who the consumers are demographically, but what and who they are from an attitude standpoint and really what motivates them and what are some of the unmet needs that exist and what are some of the purchase drivers that are out there and to really say, "Okay, there are these different types of consumers and here's how they look at a [inaudible 00:08:33]. Here's how they behave. Here's what they are demographically. Here's what they like to eat and when they like to eat it." That type of information certainly was new information and it really helped guide us then to what you see today with this whole brand, what we might want to call a brand re-launch, but just taking some steps in a direction of taking the Farmland brand to be just a little bit more relevant and little bit more different with those consumers that we were out there talking to this time around.

Hanacek: Okay. Does this open any doors for you guys, whether it be in terms of new products, maybe product development, things that maybe fit a little bit better that didn't before that this really speaks to or maybe there are other doors in other areas that this opens for you? What does this do for the brand overall, in terms of opening doors or providing new opportunities?

Nicholson: I think what it allows us to do at least, and I'll use one of the new items that we came out with just recently as an example, and if you're familiar with the Boulevard Brewing Company you may have heard of what we're doing with the Boulevard Bratwurst, but that idea and/or that item, well it really is no secret that guys like to get around a grill and cook bratwurst right? But the idea of being able to bring a beer brand into the mix and a beer brand that's seen as more on the craft side of things and a little bit more on the, I would say, Boulevard has a very similar image within beer in terms of that it has a lot of passion for what they do. Those guys make high-quality beer. So to be able to partner with that type of company and that type of brand was something that we feel like fell right in line with where we're going with our brand around the pride and passion we have in what we do on the pork side. To bring those two together just seemed like a natural pairing and to do it with bratwurst kind of around the grill, very much a beer occasion, very much a meat occasion, it just made all the sense in the world. There was a very specific consumer target we were going after with that item. It just made all the sense in the world for us to be able to come together. There will be other innovations and other new products that are out of this as well that all of them will have to showcase though what this new message is doing for us around the passion and pride that we have in pork.

Hanacek: Yeah, I saw your Boulevard Wheat Brats and it made me wistful. I used to live in Springfield, Missouri back in the day and I miss that Boulevard Wheat. You can get it a little bit up here in Chicago but it's very hard to find. When I saw you guys were doing the bratwurst with the Boulevard Wheat, I said, "Ohh".

Nicholson: Boulevard has been great partners to work with. They actually messaged some things out on their Facebook in terms of what we were doing. It was amazing. They have followers from all over the country. Whether they were on the east coast or the west coast or wherever they might be, it was the question time and time again on the Facebook page for Boulevard was, "Where can I get these? How can I get these?" Definitely, it was a lot of excitement. We're looking forward to building on that as we go forward.

Hanacek: Is that going to be a seasonal item or is that something you guys are looking to carry nonstop?

Nicholson: It'll be, well the category in general is a seasonal category, but in terms of, so that will continue of course, but the item itself will be available all year. That's the plan for that. We'll look to see what things may come out of this as we go forward. Like I said, those guys are great to work with over at Boulevard and we're looking forward to seeing what else we might be able to do together.

Hanacek: Outstanding, Chad. Anything else that you wanted to add on the refresh or on the brand in general that we didn't touch on?

Nicholson: I think we hit on pretty much everything. One of just the key things is it's a very exciting time here, obviously, and what we're doing with, whether it's identifying who the consumer is and what they need and then tailoring our message around that through the T.V., the radio, the stuff we're doing online and in the digital space, or the packaging or the shopper marketing at retail or some of the new products, one thing I just want to make sure everybody understands and knows is that this is all consumer driven and to help us all that are out there, right? It's to help grow the category. It's to help get people excited about pork and if they get excited about pork, I think we all win. That's just one thing that we're looking forward to, is doing our part and just trying to help grow this category for everybody.

Hanacek: Yeah, and you do bring up a good point. When I was out there doing a story on Oven Perfect, there was a lot of talk about how Oven Perfect is not meant to outright replace or cannabalize anything. You guys have actually found that it's helping grow the category in the fresh marinated pork. That was interesting to me. It rings true, at least throughout a couple of the people that I've talked to for this story and for this podcast, so it's good to hear and I hope the industry hears it and buys in as well. Thanks, Chad. I appreciate your time, and good luck with the brand refresh and again, thanks for joining me on this podcast. I appreciate it.

Nicholson: Thank you. It was a lot of fun.