Jack Link's Looks To 'Fuel' POP Sales

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Those who don’t know the beef jerky-snacks category might expect ads featuring blue-collar, truck-driver-type guys.

But Jack Link’s Beef Jerky is not known for hewing to an old-guard marketing approach. Since 2006, the brand has succeeded in growing by wooing active young adults with a decidedly novel “face” or mascot: the once-elusive Sasquatch.

The hirsute creature (an actor dressed in a pretty convincing costume) has starred in innumerable Jack Link’s commercials, videos, games and social efforts, and there seems to be endless material for new variations on his far-out adventures and slapstick interactions with humans.

The brand's “Messin’ with Sasquatch” ad series -- viewable at a site with that URL, as well as the more conventional JackLinks.com URL -- offers a large collection of scenarios in which humans engaging in various outdoor activities get their yuks by playing silly pranks on Sasquatch. They invite him to join them around a campfire, but put a whoopee cushion on his lawn chair…they convince him to lick a cold, metal pole outside a skiing chalet…they snap him with a wet towel by a stream…they hand him a shaken-up beer can that sprays him in the face…they offer him a ride, then keep moving away as he tries to get in the car… Well, you get the picture.

But in each case, Sasquatch has the last laugh, effortlessly tossing the offenders into streams or patches of woods, commandeering their cars and golf carts, or sinking their boats with hurled boulders. And in each case, the spots end with the tagline: “Feed Your Wild Side.”

Last year, to introduce the character and brand in indoor contexts, Jack Link’s launched a new series, “Snackin’ with Sasquatch.” In these vignettes, the creature engages with humans as they go about day-to-day activities like an office coffee break, watching a football game, and carpooling to work -- inevitably scaring the wits out of them by smashing coffee pots after burning his mouth, pushing a human through the ceiling in his enthusiasm over a touchdown, or pushing a carpooler’s face into the dashboard for having changed the radio station from classical (Sasquatch’s preference) to rock.

The brand also started producing more 15-second spots, as opposed to its traditional 30-second commercials, last year, to enable it to up its airing frequency, reports Kevin Papacek, director of marketing for Jack Link’s.

“Consumers just love these commercials,” Papacek says, noting that the popularity of the Sasquatch mascot videos has helped drive the brand’s Facebook “likes” up to nearly 900,000, as well as create a rapidly growing base of Twitter followers for @MeSasquatch. (Twitter profile summary: “Me Sasquatch. Likes breaking sticks, facial hair, sleeping, revenge.”) 

Now, Jack Link’s is trying a new media tack, aimed at reaching its young, adventurous, mobile target audience between their online platform use and TV exposure -- and putting the brand in front of them at the moments when they’re very close to point-of-purchase/POP.

Specifically, the brand is testing complementing its traditional television buys by airing its latest 15-second Sasquatch spots on video screens atop gas pumps at gas stations that are part of the Outcast Media Fuel Network.

For six weeks, Jack Link’s’ spots will be featured among those of other advertisers, within the Fuel Network’s on-screen content offerings -- in this case a limited test at 52 gas-station/convenience-store locations in Boston and 57 such locations in Minneapolis.

The Fuel Network, which spans more than 19,000 screens in more than 115 DMAs across the U.S., specializes in reaching young, active, affluent ($85,000 average household income) consumers who on average watch TV less than the general public (20% say they don’t watch prime-time TV at all), and also spend significantly more money on credit cards per month than the average U.S. consumer, according to Nathan Gill, chief revenue officer and co-founder of Outcast. Last year, the Fuel Network's number of weekly viewers would have ranked second among all top-10 TV networks in reaching adults ages 18-49 (it reaches some 34 million adults per month, 75% of which are in that age bracket), reports Gill.

Because the Fuel Network has the significant advantage of having actual, credit-card based, by-location gas credit-card transactions data, it can target this core audience by focusing on partnerships with gas station owners in the top, highest-traffic, highest per-household-income DMAs -- stations that are also most apt to adapt the most up-to-date video terminal-format gas pump formats offered by Outcast through the leading pump manufacturer, says Gill. In addition, it can provide hard metrics, including data showing that consumers typically head off to buy all kinds of other goods on the same day that they buy gas at the stations.

From a marketing standpoint, Outcast’s biggest selling point is that the advertiser-sponsored video ads shown between its continuously looped, continuously updated news/entertainment/sports content (content and ad time is split about 50/50) drive the viewers into the convenience stores near most of its gas-station locations -- influencing them on their “paths to purchase.” Or, if there is no C-store at a given gas-station location, or the advertised brand wants to direct the gas-buyer/viewer to the closest grocery, drug or mass-merchandise retail outlet to buy the product, the network’s transaction-based technology can do that, says Gill.

“In some cases, the [gas buyers] in a given geographic location may be most apt to head off to Walmart to make more purchases; in others, Whole Foods may be their most likely destination,” he says.

The largest advertising category for Outcast’s Fuel Network (it also has a fitness-center-based video network) is financial services (no surprise, given the viewers’ high credit-card usage rates), Gill reports. The second-largest advertiser category is automotive, followed by CPG product makers, retailers, telco services and some entertainment brands.

For Jack Link’s, pre-test data analysis/modeling by Outcast showed that the brand’s “adventurous spirits” target audience will spend some $3 billion in grocery and drug stores and about $700 million in convenience stores after paying for their gas at stations with Outcast video terminals, according to Gill.

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