Every afternoon in homes across the country, the same refrain can be heard: “Hey! What’s for dinner?” And in the minds of the many consumers hearing that question, a dominant answer has been planted: Beef. It’s what’s for dinner.
click image to zoom Not just planted, in fact. Watered, nourished and cared for over the past two decades, the beef checkoff-developed phrase is an example of highly successful promotion that is the envy of most major companies.
Can its true benefit to producers be quantified? And maybe more important, is it still relevant in this digital age?
“It’s invaluable,” according to Jim Boudreau, who was account director in charge of the “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” effort for the campaign-creating Leo Burnett agency from 1998-2002. “In the food category, it’s one of the most successful taglines ever.”
The reason for the success is simple, Boudreau says, but hard to duplicate. The beef tagline is “declarative, American,” he says. “It resonates with everyone, whether they’re in their 20s or in their 70s.
“We wanted to own that meal,” he says. “The tagline, combined with the other campaign elements, helped accomplish that.”
It wasn’t just an advertising campaign, says Mary Adolf, who was vice president of promotion at the National Live Stock and Meat Board at the time. It was integrated across just about every facet of the industry’s marketing program. “That really helped propel it forward very quickly,” Adolf says.
click image to zoom The campaign had followed another successful campaign, "Beef. Real Food for Real People.", which used celebrities to gain attention and had been created by a different agency. In the early 1990s, though, the industry was going through a huge transformation, modernizing meat cases, creating convenient recipes and identifying new cuts and products that more closely met consumer needs.
The new “Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner.” campaign would refocus on the beef product. The campaign hit the streets in May of 1992 with a 17-month, $42 million campaign that covered a broad range of marketing elements.
“It clicked almost immediately,” says Adolf. “The whole industry got behind it, and saw its potential. We worked hard to find a tagline that would endure and could be owned by the beef industry – something that could resonate with consumers and communicate what we were trying to convey.”