I've always been a fan of the “Beef, it’s What’s For Dinner” advertising campaign. From the classic frontiersman allure of Copland’s Rodeo for theme music to the brutish appeal of Sam Elliott’s delivery, it is American ruggedness at its best.  

When Elliott begins to lament about the splendid experience of eating a juicy, succulent beef dinner in his authentic western gruff, many of us remember the long list of characters he has portrayed. From the oldest Sackett Brother to his portrayal of Virgil Earp and rough and ready biker, Gar, he has always embodied the working man’s mystic. 

The same can be said for Matthew McConaughey. The native Texan probably resonates more with the lady of the household, but he is no less effective. And, if the target consumer group are baby boomers and Generation X, mission accomplished.

 For good reason, we need to continue to encourage the hands that guide the culinary output of the American household to eat beef, but is it the only consumer group we should be aiming for? Should we increase marketing pressures on the generations that already identify and connect with beef to consume more? Or, should we engage the oncoming generations of disconnected consumers that exist all across the globe?

The millennial generation, and those not far behind, will drive beef demand and consumption far into the future. It is clear these generations are unique in the way they connect and engage. This is an opportunity for our industry to adapt methodologies other industries have mastered. A combination of slightly modified tactics and a few new, unorthodox ideas might significantly increase beef’s reach.     

A small step forward would be to use celebrities more relevant to younger generations. NFL wide receivers Jordy Nelson of the Green Bay Packers and Cobi Hamilton of the Pittsburgh Steelers both have ties to agriculture and appeal to wide demographics.   

Additionally, fitness cultures, from runners to CrossFitters, present another avenue to bond with young men and women. Many of the top health and wellness experts regularly advocate adding beef to diets for its benefits in performance activity.  

Conceivably, the way to connect with future consumers lies well beyond human ambassadorship. Could animated characters play an important role? Can you see Dora and Boots finding their way over Muddy Mountain to eat a hamburger; Team Umizoomi fueling up on tri-tip; or PokémonGO … find a steak? Can you visualize Jordy Nelson’s Madden NFL 17 character snacking on a fistful of beef jerky after taking one to the house? Imagine the soldiers from Call of Duty settling in for a nice, relaxing prime rib dinner after a long day of “opening up a can” on the bad guys. 

You might think this seems odd or unorthodox. You’re right; to our generations, it is. However, we have to start thinking outside the box to reach and connect with new groups of consumers to ensure they know the value beef plays in their diets. The time to reach them is now.


Note: This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Drovers.