—Brent Carlson-Lee, Founder & Owner of Eli’s Donut Burgers
I have to admit Beef Products Inc.’s “lean, finely textured beef” sounds pretty good. But call it “pink slime” (its recently popularized nickname) and I find it much less appetizing. In their defense, pink slime is 100% beef…except for the ammonia. And beef without ammonia is like, God forbid, lutefisk without lye.
While many find its wool-over-the-consumers’-eyes product naming reprehensible, the company clearly had a solid understanding it was in the Spin, Baby, Spin quadrant of the framework below. FDA guidelines require ingredients to be disclosed; however, a food additive consisting of heated and processed beef waste treated with ammonia to kill bacteria clearly doesn’t elicit a positive consumer reaction. As such, Beef Products Inc. took artistic license in crafting the terminology used to describe its ingredients.
Beef Products Inc. isn’t alone in the Spin, Baby Spin quadrant – the Corn Refiners Association aspires to re-badge “high-fructose corn syrup” as “corn sugar,” and P&G has struggled with how to talk about its olestra ingredient (aka Olean) for two decades. You may recall Dan Kelly’s prior posts on the high-fructose corn syrup/corn sugar flap here and here.
Some brands Shout it from the Mountain Top – think Fiber One. While it is required to disclose the fiber content in the nutrition facts panel, General Mills went as far as incorporating “fiber” into the brand name, given its overwhelmingly positive consumer perception.
Go ahead, Puff(ery) Away. As Steve Baird blogged last November, artisan puffery is in full force. Obviously, there is no requirement to communicate the artisan nature of a product (nor to drive the term into a meaningless oblivion); however, it seems to evoke a positive consumer perception.
Shhhh. This often relates to how products are processed or prepared. Generally, consumers don’t care, or even want to know, how products are made (baked vs. fried is a notable exception). For example, you don’t hear McDonald’s talk about how its burgers are fried to perfection by a machine that requires minimal human intervention.
While this newly-penned framework may never make its way into mainstream marketing textbooks, deciding whether and how to communicate ingredient and how-its-made information to consumers is undoubtedly an important issue.