The pitch began: “J&D’s Foods, the makers of Bacon Salt and Baconnaise, is pleased to bring you a clear infographic explanation of What Happens One Hour After Eating Bacon. It is attached for your convenience, and also on our website here.”
The trendy word “infographic” — spell-check has yet to acknowledge it — got my attention in a way that the evocative word “bacon” had not in previous emails from J&D, which I quickly wrote off as touting products that ought not to have seen daylight in the first place. Bacon-Scented Pillowcases is one case in point.
The copy continued: “Communication through charts and infographics is proven to be more effective than talking on the phone, meeting in person or shouting to someone in the next room.”
I could identify with that and clicked through. Humor helps. No, it’s not side-splittingly funny. But J&D Foods’ parody of a viral, if pretty much debunked, infographic by “The Renegade Pharmacist” titled “What Happens One Hour After Drinking a Can of Coke” had a self-referential archness about it that has been very effective for some brands for a long time. Think Beetle, if you want to think big.
In a “60 Minutes”-like notation, the Eating Bacon infographic points out: “Science tells us that we take an hour off our lives for every 7 strips of bacon we eat. This is the same science that doesn’t know what 85% of the universe is made of, how cats purr or why we’re here.” It ends: “F**k science — bacon is worth it.”
If you are attempting this at home, bear in mind that it helps to have a product that evokes passion — one way or the other — in the target consumer. Or, barring that, you need the talent to create a roiling controversy out of any material that happens to be at hand, à la The Donald.
Bacon needs little in the way of bloviation to help it get attention. It is not a take-it-or-leave-it product. Every so often, I’ll fry up some slices with a couple of eggs and will invariably get a variation of “how could you?” from a vegetarian member of my household and a “make me a slice; just one” from another — both of whose senses are finely attuned to the first waft from the frying pan.
The irony is that Bacon Salt contains no bacon. It’s not only vegetarian, it also contains no calories, no fat and is kosher to boot — almost good enough to pass as a health food if it didn’t also have a few –ates and an -ide in the ingredient list. It cries out for an earnest campaign targeting bacon-loving vegetarians, right?
Instead, the partners in Seattle-based J&D Foods, Dave Lefcow and Justin Esch, have been using edgy — okay, sophomoric — humor to garner attention since they launched the product in 2007 with a $5,000 prize won by Lefcow for an admittedly “not super funny” video that ran on “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”
They say they sold out their first production run of 6,000 jars in five days over the Web and, since then, have expanded into products such as BaconPOP microwave popcorn, Baconnaise and Bacon Ranch Dressing that are sold at “big–name retailers” and cash-flow boxes such as Kroger, Walmart and Costco. Then there are novelty items like Bacon Lip Balm, bacon-flavored Mmmvelopes and Bacon Shaving Cream.
The website copy crows that J&D has “done some really crazy, and potentially illegal, things with bacon over the last 6 years — from mayonnaise wrestling to the Bacathlon, and Bacon Coffins to our tour across college and pro football stadiums in America.” Videos back up the assertions in grueling detail. Then there was the “Don’t Snort It” campaign.
There is a method to all this madcap madness, of course. Over the years, there have been appearances with Oprah (nine minutes!), Letterman, Kimmel, “The Tonight Show,” “Today,” “Good Morning America,” CNN, NPR -- and, to cap it all off, MediaPost.
All this reminded me of another company I’d checked out — Dollar Shave Club — after seeing a “content you might like” tag on a news site recently. (I seem to be a prime algorithmic prospect for hair removal, as Harry’s and Razors Direct also seem to stalk me.)
Like Bacon Salt, The Dollar Shaving Club plays to a manly stereotype with over-the-top humor. The $4,500 video that launched the company in 2012 —“DollarShaveClub.com — Our Blades Are F***ing Great” — has had nearly 20 million views. And founder Michael Dubin can point to write-ups in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Esquire, Fortune and Fast Company, among others. More recently, he’s been in the studios of Bloomberg Television and CNBC talking about expanding the $140-million business he’s built into hair care products for men.
More than ever, you can’t get away with content that looks factual but isn’t. But content that’s only f***ing pretending to be factual in pursuit of a guffaw? Seems to be going strong. Have fun, bros.
This fall the New York Times’ T Brand Studio will launch Mobile Moments, which it says is a new type of mobile advertising featuring targeted short stories called Screenplays. “Based on the success our newsroom has had with moment-based targeting for its journalism, the commercial side of our organization has adopted similar tools, templates and insights and tailored them to suit our advertisers’ needs,” says Sebastian Tomich, senior vice president, advertising and innovation.