The Battle for the Center of the Plate
Consumers are demanding healthier foods, but with no consensus on what "healthier" means, uncertainty and misinformation abounds. While beef is rich in vitamins and minerals, changing consumer tastes and perceptions about other protein sources like chicken and pork (and not to mention vegetarian and other diets) have created a debate over which protein reigns supreme at Texas tables. In addition, despite its legendary place in Texas culture, the tradition that is Texas and beef has lost ground as the state has increasingly urbanized away from the ranching tradition. Food brands today are faced with defending their positions at the center of the plate from the latest news, study or report, which prompted a call from Beef Loving Texans, the Texas Beef Council's consumer brand, to the food industry experts at Apron.
Together with Apron, Beef Loving Texans developed a strategy to celebrate the art of meat cuts through a concept called the "Best Butcher in Texas," a competition designed to celebrate the exquisite craft of meat cutting and perfect-portion creation.
"There's just such a confusion at the meat case, and we really have a great opportunity there to highlight the exceptional skills of these butchers", said Rachel Chou, Beef Loving Texans' senior manager of consumer communications.
The competition brought Texas butchers together from across the industry – restaurants, grocery and butcher specialty shops. Each competitor was asked to showcase the art of beef butchery through challenges such as identifying cuts of beef and cutting and presenting the perfect cut of meat to a panel of judges.
Participants competed in regional butchery rounds in Dallas, Houston and Central Texas, leading up to the final competition where the contestants vied for title of Best Butcher in Texas along with $5,000 cash, a gold-plated cleaver trophy and a full-page co-branded Texas Monthly ad. All participants also received a knife set courtesy of Victorinox Swiss Army.
Bryan Butler, a butcher from Salt and Time in Austin, Texas, took home the trophy and title of Best Butcher in Texas. Bryan and the other finalists now serve as expert resources to Beef Loving Texans to help spread the word about incorporating beef into meals. The competition generated a total of 13.8 million earned media impressions and 3.5 million social media mentions throughout the state, including high concentrations in competitors' hometowns.
Finally, media assets and rich content such as graphics, highlight reels, videos and photos created throughout the competition allow the brand to continue the conversation year-round as Beef Loving Texans makes significant headway in the battle for the center of the plate.
Executive Summary of Results:
- 13.8 million earned media impressions
- 3.5 million social media mentions
- Recruitment of three new butcher ambassadors and three culinary schools
- Media asset library including graphics, highlight reels, videos and photos
- 190 pounds of beef donated to local charitable organizations
- Over 2,400 meals served to those in need across Texas
“I had the chance to taste about 50 Texas wines at the festival and I came away impressed with how they have evolved over the last decade. I’d like to see more Texas wines cross the state line and persuade wine lovers that there’s a lot of fine winemaking going on north of the Rio Grande.”In addition to existing events, Apron and Texas Wine traveled to New York City several times to meet with the nation’s most influential wine, food and travel writers. Through office visits and an exclusive media reception, we made contact with key editors and freelancers representing outlets such as Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Food Arts, Good Housekeeping, Gourmet, O Magazine, Redbook, Restaurant Business, Saveur, Travel + Leisure, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. To support the state’s need for additional grapes, we expanded our media relations program to include agriculture outreach. We hosted media tours to the High Plains for harvest and planting with media guests representing the Dallas Morning News, Vineyard & Winery Management, Southwest Farm Press, High Plains Journal, Texas Highways and Practical Winery and Vineyard.
Bloomberg News: Texas Wineries Grow Up, Beat the Heat, Seek Their Own Styles - John Mariani
ChallengeTexas’ most beloved grocery store, H-E-B, was turning 100, and they wanted to make sure to celebrate with an effort as big as the Lone Star State. The cherished retailer turned to us to support its milestone anniversary as a way to thank its partners, customers and communities for their commitment to the company for its first 100 years of success, to build awareness of its products and services, and to drive traffic and increase sales.
SolutionOver an 18-month assignment, Apron creatively and strategically supported all earned media and community relations initiatives throughout Texas. Highlights from the Centennial celebration include:
- Launched the celebration with a donation of more than one million pounds of food to 18 Texas food banks in 24 hours using 30 H-E-B trailers and a Southwest Airlines plane that traveled to six markets in one day.
- Planted 100 trees in 10 cities that were once saplings from the historic Treaty Oak.
- Donated hundreds of H-E-Bear stuffed animals to children at local children’s hospitals in partnership with local college and professional sports players.
- Launched H-E-B’s customer and celebrity cookbook, generating more than 60 stories.
- Gained media attention for H-E-B’s branding campaign launched during the 2005 Super Bowl.
- Secured media to participate in preview events to introduce H-E-B’s 100-second shopping spree and to help judge the company’s Born in Texas baby photo contest to launch a new line of baby products, raising more than $30,000 donated to local charities.
- Garnered feature stories about H-E-B’s Centennial, its innovations and its community commitment in newspapers across the state.
- Introduced Central Market Organics own-brand products to H-E-B customers through extensive earned media outreach.
Differentiation in the spirits space is difficult, and Republic Tequila came to our team for help relaunching their brand.
The best brands begin with their audience in mind, and we started with defining their audiences and developing a message platform, which honored the brand’s distinctive Texas character. From there, we crafted the brand’s strategic communications and marketing plan. Our team worked with Republic on all aspects of the brand, including its style guide, packaging, sales materials, website, sponsorships, media relations and marketing collateral.
Our “Where in the Republic” tour is an example of how we tied into the brand’s Texas heritage. The brand hosted the statewide tour March 2, which is Texas Independence Day, with a series of events to highlight the spirit of the Lone Star State. At each of the nearly 20 events, Republic Tequila representatives shared drinks and collected Texas Tales -- stories of the places Texans were raised, why people love Texas and what makes our state so unique. The brand also accepted Texas Tales via social media and encouraged fans to follow along on the tour.
Our work brought the brand a consistent, clear voice and message to give Republic Tequila a distinct position in a crowded marketplace. Efforts like our “Where in the Republic” tour introduced hundreds of Texans to the brand and generated local PR and social buzz.
In 2014, the craft beer sector was catching fire. New brands were entering the market rapidly and distributors were increasingly searching for beers whose brands could catch the attention of consumers eager to try new flavors. At the same time, start up breweries were searching for new investment to fuel their business plans and ladder up to national scale quickly. Guns & Oil Brewery turned to Apron to address this dual need.
Rhetorical research connected the brand idea to two classic scholarly pieces: Steele & Redding’s “American Value System” (1962) and Frederick Jackson Turners American frontier thesis (1893). The Apron team, using its Brand Messaging in a Day™ methodology, then quickly developed a story for Guns & Oil to fully explain the brand’s central and differentiating value: Grit.
With the message platform in hand, the team set up investor relations and brand communications projects with a number of work product deliverables. On the investor side, a careful study of the craft beer space helped to create a narrative for the investment opportunity, culminating in the creation of an investor prospectus. For the brand, Apron produced a half-day workshop to train the company’s sales team on the brand’s story, how to convey it best and to match each team member’s storytelling strengths to an elevator pitch. A series of video scripts were also developed from the brand platform, forming the company’s first YouTube branded episodic content series.
In addition to, and consistent with, the brand’s story, Apron successfully:
- Pitched and prepared the Guns & Oil CEO for a full episode television appearance on West Texas Investor’s Club on CNBC.
- Pitched and prepared the Guns & Oil team for a reality TV series on CMT, complete with production of a pilot taping at the Broken Spoke, Austin’s world-famous Texas dance hall.
- Increased social media-based views of the brand over a six-month period by just over 700%.
- Supported a successful B Series fundraising round netting 100% of targeted capital.