Maple Leaf’s nation of bacon

Maple Leaf Foods is building a bacon republic. But does anyone want to live there?

From bacon mints to chocolate-covered bacon, for many it’s the most monumental of meats. For Maple Leaf Foods, it’s the embodiment of a nation.
The ‘Republic of Bacon’ is a destination, developed by Toronto-based John St., where bacon-lovers can celebrate the hallowed pork product. Maple Leaf launched Republicofbacon.com in December to tap into the robust bacon-worshipping community and introduce relevant points of difference in its product – like its new, recloseable package.
‘There’s a real opportunity here, where we have a pretty significant share and strong recognition of Maple Leaf as the leading brand, to capture the emotion connected to this category,’ says Adam Grogan, VP marketing at Maple Leaf Consumer Foods.
The site, which is supported with television ads depicting life in the republic, features a citizenship application process, customs and even a national anthem. Tasty extras include video clips of cooking safety tips, a sizzling bacon striptease in the red light district and a casino where gamblers can literally bring it home.
‘We’ve got more key messages in innovation that we want to communicate, and this is a great platform to do that,’ explains Grogan. ‘This republic wants…to establish itself, not just in the cyber world, but also in the real world.’
We tapped Tony Chapman, CEO of Toronto-based Capital C, and Jane Murray, associate CD at Ogilvy Toronto, to provide some pork punditry on the state of the bacon nation and what they would do to expand borders if the reins to the republic were in their hands.

OVERALL STRATEGY
Chapman: 
You can always count on John St. for leveraging meaningful consumer insights – in this case carnivores love their meat, especially bacon. It’s the perfect Trojan horse for having consumers not only talk about bacon, but permission to buy.

Murray: You can’t go anywhere on the interwebs these days without encountering bacon humour. In the past month alone I’ve been forwarded jpegs of a gravy-filled bacon mug, a bacon lampshade and a bacon bra. And I don’t even eat bacon. So it’s a smart move for Maple Leaf to want to ride this current wave of bacon-mania in order to promote their new packaging.

CAMPAIGN ELEMENTS

Chapman: The elements are integrated and the style is distinctive.  My only question is whether the animated style of the campaign enables them to fully leverage the sensorial elements of bacon.
Murray: There’s no doubt the website’s message is that bacon is awesome. But I never got the message that Maple Leaf’s new packaging is an awesome way to store that awesomeness. Understandably, they don’t want to scare people off by being too sell-y, but I thought there was room here to do both.
The TV follows the same message hierarchy – it does a great job of promoting bacon…but how good it is at promoting Maple Leaf remains to be seen.

THE REPUBLIC – PORK PUNDITRY
Chapman: I love the gems they have built in, like a souvenir shop and a PSA. What comes next? Will Maple Leaf commit the time and resources to the strategies John St. has developed?
The republic needs a home, and it has to be at retail. Currently less than 10% of shoppers visit the bacon category. I would launch a line of Republic of Bacon products at retail and through my food service partners – however, not just bacon with a new ribbon. We have to give bacon lovers a reason to believe in our republic: offer more flavour, a better chew, or one that stays hotter longer, or seasoned for the world’s greatest BLT, etc.  We need to engage and motivate trial by serving our bacon at unique sampling stations.
In terms of buzz, I might avoid television and a website during the launch phase. Seed it into male-only communities where carnivores can feast on our bacon. Show up at hockey rinks and offer up a platter of bacon from the republic. Do the same anywhere else men line up for their evening food-fight. Populate this content on hockey blogs and through social networks. Use your media dollars to hijack the Fan 590 or Coach’s Corner and show up with a plate of bacon. An uprising (versus mass declaration) takes longer. Corporations rarely have the patience for it, but it could be more sustainable. 
Murray: If the intent of the website is to become the hub of all things bacon online, it has to get more interactive. Fast. There are lots of bacon bits to watch, but I quickly felt that watching was all I was doing. Now, I’m not against sitting back and being entertained. And I’m definitely not one of those folks who think every single experience with a brand has to be a gripping two-way dialogue. It’s just that I’ve got this great pic of me in a bacon bra I’m dying to post.