It’s time to beef up the good news mes­sage about our food in­dus­try

Irish Independent - Farming - - ANALYSIS - ANN FITZGER­ALD

McDON­ALD’S is the world’s largest res­tau­rant chain. Founded in Amer­ica in the 1940s, it cur­rently serves some 69 mil­lion cus­tomers a day, across more than 37,000 out­lets. Over 150,000 cus­tomers a day visit Ire­land’s 92 McDon­ald’s.

Last week, de­spite what it termed, “dif­fi­cult trad­ing con­di­tions and low con­sumer con­fi­dence,” the fast food chain re­vealed it in­creased an­nual prof­its by 4.5pc and stated that it ex­pects to open a fur­ther 1,200 restau­rants in 2019.

Mar­ket­ing is ob­vi­ously cen­tral to its suc­cess.

I have it on good author­ity that the com­pany has de­cided that, even though it is work­ing hard in the back­ground at re­duc­ing its car­bon foot­print and that of its sup­pli­ers, it is not us­ing the con­cept of sus­tain­abil­ity in their mar­ket­ing cam­paigns.

Ap­par­ently, this is be­cause they be­lieve that con­sumers do not un­der­stand sus­tain­abil­ity and any mes­sages about it just con­fuses them.

There is cer­tainly lit­tle as­so­ci­a­tion with sus­tain­abil­ity in the TV ad that McDon­ald’s is cur­rently run­ning in Ire­land, ‘Oh What a Beau­ti­ful Morn­ing’. It fo­cuses on feel-good farm­ing images, like busy, early-ris­ing farm­ers, happy clucky free-range hens and cas­cad­ing golden straw.

Per­haps there are lessons to be learned from this for the mar­ket­ing of Ir­ish pri­mary prod­ucts, es­pe­cially beef, which is cur­rently un­der sus­tained at­tack on a num­ber of fronts?

In­ci­den­tally, while the cur­rent de­mon­i­sa­tion of beef as a food­stuff may feel over­whelm­ing, keep in mind that this is a jour­ney which has al­ready been taken by the likes of but­ter, salt and sugar. This leads me on to an idea for a TV ad that my col­league Martin Cough­lan has come up with.

The ad opens with an at­trac­tive, newly mar­ried, farm­ing cou­ple in their home on St Valentine’s Day. He gives her a bunch of red roses and a box of choco­lates; he sits down to the kitchen ta­ble where she serves him his favourite meal of a steak and a glass of milk.

We then see them dis­ap­pear­ing through what is ob­vi­ously their bed­room door.

Fast for­ward through the year, with whole­some images of a herd of dairy cows me­an­der­ing down a coun­try lane, a suck­ler cow and her calf with a big milky puss, the cou­ple ram­bling around an agri­cul­tural show, a field of straw, a Christ­mas tree, then snow­drops, be­fore ar­riv­ing back at the orig­i­nal set­ting on what is ob­vi­ously the fol­low­ing Valentine’s Day.

We’re back at the same kitchen ta­ble. But, this time, it is the woman who sits down as the man serves her a steak and glass of milk, as she hands him some­thing, as yet un­re­vealed. When the cam­era draws back, we see a widely smil­ing cou­ple and what she handed him is a set of twins, one now cra­dled in the crook of ei­ther arm.

The point is we need more imag­i­na­tive ways of pro­mot­ing the food we are pro­duc­ing in­stead of start­ing from a de­fen­sive po­si­tion. But there is sci­en­tific logic there too in the ad­ver­tis­ing sce­nario out­lined above. Steak is as­so­ci­ated with viril­ity, while both steak and milk are sources of iron and cal­cium, both im­por­tant nu­tri­ents for new mums.

How­ever, we also need to be­come a lot smarter on how we go about our busi­ness. We need to fo­cus on sell­ing the many ben­e­fits of food we pro­duce. We need to pur­sue our own agenda with con­vic­tion, not spend all our time danc­ing to some­one else’s tune. Our spokes­peo­ple need to be ar­tic­u­late and well briefed. If it means pay­ing some­one well to tell our story, pay them.

The game has turned pro­fes­sional and we need to turn pro­fes­sional with it.


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