Top Trends in Recent QSR, CPG & Branded Commodity Marketing

The first quarter of 2020 was proceeding nicely for food marketing creative efforts, when seemingly overnight, the world changed. Huge repercussions are currently being felt far and wide throughout the industry, and it will be interesting, to say the least, to see how food messaging and content pivots in the age of Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, before COVID-19 hit the fan, we saw continuing momentum for the ongoing meatless movement at more QSRs, with El Pollo Loco and Dunkin’ Donuts both getting into the act. Over in CPG, JIF Peanut Butter used a digital debate to stimulate social conversation about its brand. While the California Milk Advisory Board generated “buzz” for its commodity by skewering the California cannabis culture. And other food marketers tapped boomer nostalgia to create notice for their brands.

As always, a brief video recap of this month’s content is also available for your viewing pleasure. But for a deeper dive, read on.

Here is some of the creative food advertising that broke through and got our attention in the past three months. Come back in June, when this blog will address how the industry is going about marketing to a nation of homebound consumers that are suddenly severely limited in their ability to go out for food.

El Pollo Loco – Chicken-less Chicken

The plant-based wars in QSR have now extended to chicken.  Southern California-based chain El Pollo Loco (EPL) has become the latest fast food restaurant to join the fray. For its new Chickenless Pollo Taco, EPL has developed its own proprietary non-meat protein that replaces shredded chicken. In doing so, the company beat KFC to market, which is still in test mode with a Beyond Meat chicken product.

To publicize the launch, El Pollo Loco has created a funny short film imagining a third-generation chicken farmer named Cordell who has made the transition from raising regular chickens to Chickenless Pollo. Cordell’s chickenless (that is, nonexistent and invisible) flock goes a long way toward delivering the message that at least some of the restaurant’s chicken isn’t actually chicken any more.

Dunkin’ Donuts – Beyond Breakfast

The meatless meat wars in fast food further expanded beyond burgers at Dunkin’ Donuts, which recently launched its Beyond Meat Sausage Sandwich. Promoting the new product was none other than Beyond Meat investor and brand ambassador Snoop Dogg. The iconic rapper donned an apron as a server for a day at Dunkin’ Donuts in an unscripted hidden camera video also featuring several surprised and delighted patrons. Snoop, who is perhaps best known for his love of another sort of plant-based recreation, makes for a very chill “employee of the month,” and his message of “plant-based great taste” is off the hizzle fo’ shizzle.

JIF Peanut Butter – GIF Partnership

JIF is peanut butter. GIFs are looping animations. No one is contesting that. What they have been arguing about for some time now is how GIF is pronounced. That is, does it use a soft “g” sound like “giraffe” or a hard “g” like “gorilla”? So JIF and Giphy came together to put a lid on the debate once and for all. A special edition JIF peanut butter labeled “GIF” was offered for sale on Amazon, which quickly sold out. To support the stunt, Giphy posted a series of fun GIFs illustrating the conundrum, while JIF created a tongue-in-cheek video featuring a professor of “linjuistics” offering his own take on the “disajreement.” The GIFs are fun to share and a great way to generate social discussion as people weigh in with their own opinion. Spoiler alert, the correct pronunciation of GIF is with a hard “g.” Pronouncing “GIF” as “JIF”? As if.

California Milk Advisory Board – Dairy Dispensary

Cannabis culture has become the norm in California since its recreational legalization in 2018. So the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) devised an experiential activation designed to capitalize on the new trend. The CMAB changed the interpretation of CBD to “California-based Dairy” and created a pop-up “dairy dispensary” among some of the actual marijuana dispensaries in the laid-back beach town of Venice, CA. There, they served the public free sample “edibles,” including California cheeses and “mood enhancers” like ice cream. The stunt was supplemented with a psychedelic ad depicting people being transported to a euphoric state featuring beautiful and somewhat trippy California environments after eating dairy products like yogurt, butter and fondue.

The dairy industry has seen a decline recently as nondairy alternatives grow in popularity, and the cannabis theme may be a good way to connect with younger, hipper customers. Here’s hoping Snoop isn’t lactose-intolerant.

Buffalo Wild Wings – Boneless Thugs-N-Harmony

Nostalgia has become a common food advertising device in recent days, with nods to ’80s favorites “Cheers” and “Risky Business” from Domino’s Pizza, among others. Now Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) is getting in the act with a “Behind the Music”-style parody. The short mockumentary features ’90s rap crew Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to publicize its new boneless wings.

As always seems to befall fading formerly popular phenoms like these, an internal beef has divided the Thugs. Due to a love of BWW’s new boneless wings, three of the members now want to change their name to Boneless Thugs-N-Harmony. But Layzie Bone will have none of it, despite sharing a deep appreciation for the wings. The self-aware video about the spoils of fame will be familiar and funny to folks of a certain age, and it does a good job of getting notice for BWW’s new product—no bones about it.

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Kirk Evans VP/Associate Creative Director EvansHardy+Young
Kirk Evans, VP/Assoc Creative Director

Kirk held senior creative positions at McCann-Erickson and Ogilvy in Los Angeles before joining EvansHardy+Young over 20 years ago. He has produced award winning work for multiple EHY Clients including Idaho Potatoes, California Walnuts and several restaurant chains. Previous clients included American Express, Coca-Cola, Columbia Pictures and Post Cereals. Despite being born and bred in New Jersey, Kirk is an enthusiastic surfer.