Ontario Beef draws on local products to make new pairings

The association steps up its marketing by tackling a few misconceptions at once.

Ontario Beef wants consumers to think about different food pairings for their next meal, particularly locally made ones.

The public-facing identity of the Beef Farmers of Ontario is linking itself to products ranging from Dennis’ Horseradish to Carrick Bros maple syrup to Kinsip’s Cooper’s Revival Whisky. The goal is to tempt taste buds by showing a broader range of usage occasions for beef that also highlight the power of local.

Bob’s Your Uncle, which conceived and executed the digitally-led campaign, brought the idea of partnering with the three different challenger food and beverage brands, two of which – maple syrup and whiskey – are far less intuitive as a beef pairing than horseradish, admits Jennifer Kyle, manager of public engagement and digital strategy for the Beef Farmers of Ontario.

“They were a really nice fit and made people think ‘what other products can I pair with beef?’” she says. She tells strategy it’s about getting people to think about beef in a different way beyond ground beef, steaks and tacos. “There’s so much versatility with beef, and [the creative] helps get juices flowing,” she says. “It was a no brainer for all three [brands]” Kyle says.

Ontario Beef represent 19,000 beef farmers in Ontario by advocating in the areas of sustainability, animal health and care, environment, food safety, and domestic and export market development.

A few years ago, Kyle says it decided it needed to do more consumer-facing marketing of Ontario beef, to address misconceptions that the product originated from regions like Alberta and Texas.

Traditionally and historically, Kyle admits the organization has not done much in the way of marketing, activating at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair at the CNE, and around the CFL teams in Ontario.

A few years ago, it decided on a rebrand and to ramp up its marketing efforts as since lockdowns, it’s seen an interest in “local.”

Bob’s Your Uncle came to work with the organization in the summer of 2019 starting “from nothing, as a brand new ‘brand.’” However, as she points out, it’s not a brand per se, but merely uses its stature to promote different kinds of beef raised in the province.

Previous consumer research indicated that the general population is still keen on beef, and still eating eat. What came through loud and clear, she says, is ignorance about whether there’s actually a local option.

Compared with the likes of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, Kyle says Ontario Beef working with a leaner budget, so social and digital is the way to go, although it’s tinkered with OOH in the past to see if something sticks.

When it comes to timing of the creative launch, she says beef is a product that’s accessible year round, a rare among commodity products.

In the summer, it ran a more traditional meat-on-grill, male-targeted campaign. This one, by contrast, can be for everyone and is more geared to locals and holiday and family gatherings.

Its target tends to skew 18-34 male, with a secondary 25-35 female target. “We try to do A/B testing to try and bring in other audiences,” Kyle says.

When it comes to ad spend, it breaks the year up into two focused campaign periods. This is one of the bigger periods, she says, a bit higher than what’s typically spent in summer.