That’s what “marketing” essentially is, right? Changing people’s minds to suit your own needs? Let’s look at this idea against the backdrop of one of the greatest marketing campaigns of modern times: turning traditional carnivores into vegans...
I had my epiphany at VegFestUK in Kensington, London this October. Vegan Whitney was born. She’s slender, pale and a massive animal activist who eats Faken for lunch and Instagrams her colourful dinners (always Juno filter), while India Arie echoes throughout her VW campervan. Her friendly dog, Tofu, a re-homed Greyhound, is consistently woofing outside but it doesn’t annoy her. She’s a vegan, and everything’s cool.
But... I am not her. Part of me is, for sure, yet another part of me (there’s lots, sorry) is fascinated by the culinary revolution happening before our very eyes.
The Vegan Revolution. It’s taking place in our supermarkets, our high streets, our local restaurants and our kitchens. Our friends are trying it out, some of our Mums and even your grandparents are now partial to Quorn Bolognese. And have you searched #vegan on social media?! Ooh wee it’s going off with over 33 million related posts when I checked just a second ago. This is one movement with a serious amount of social pull.
MARKETING A LIFESTYLE DIET
Veganism, and vegetarianism, as a lifestyle diet has made a swift move into the mainstream and suddenly a HUGE chunk of people who were brought up eating meat (or animals) as part of their daily life are questioning whether they should be. if they're not identifying as vegans, year on year vegan food sales definitely show they're dabbling in the cuisine.
What makes this so relevant to marketers is that when people are shifting their attitudes, there’s some major campaigning taking place.
Advertisements, promotions, documentaries, modern menus and celebrity endorsements are consistently and creatively confronting people with the fact that eating meat is a choice – and not the norm.
In fact, flip back a few hunded years and we all ate predominantly plant-based diets anyway, with meat being a rare treat that would often last weeks.
From a marketing perspective, it’s incredible to watch this direct challenge to the world’s dedicated carnivores. Vegan activists and promoters are taking on one of the proudest modern traditions our civilisation has and telling us it’s bullshit – and that they have found a better way.
They are supporting this claim with powerful statistics, slogans and researched evidence: the formula for any successful marketing campaign. Or rather, the marketing of a philosophy, not a commodity.
Vegan activists are creating an emotional reaction by featuring animals at the core of their campaigning, playing on the barbarity of humans choosing to take innocent lives when a plant-based diet has proven to be sufficient for our survival.
They are extending their impact further by using popular icons as ambassadors. Famous faces committed to promoting veganism as a healthy diet include Ariana Grande, Fearne Cotton, Ellen DeGeneres, Peter Dinklage, Justin Timberlake, Liam Hemsworth and the motherf***ing legend, Samuel L. Jackson. Admittedly a bit hypocritical for him, considering all those snakes he murdered.
Growing up in Australia, I have seen first-hand how common it is to celebrate meat-eating as a sign of virility and stamina, just like 15% ABV red wine, Mondeos and eating wasabi without getting tears in your eyes. But after attending VegFest in London and hearing from a panel of confident, professional male and female body builders – I’ve seen a different side. On this side, respect and self-assurance comes from NOT eating meat, but proudly refusing it. That takes serious dedication and guts.
HOOKED ON A FEELING
The hook of veganism is its appeal as a confident, personal choice. The marketing isn’t trying to sell you a product – it’s selling you a feeling (a real one). Again, a basic tactical marketing move, except in this case promoting a plant-based diet benefits our planet, not someone’s profit margin.
This opportunity for building a loyal customer base through emotional marketing is summed up pretty well by Hubspot’s Lindsay Kolowich: “At its core, the vegan diet is value-based – which is a recipe for loyalty – and community-building”. This is why when you search the hashtag #vegan or #vegetarian on social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest there is a smorgasbord of colourful, creative ideas, options and concepts from this community.
Take my cousin's channel for example - @vegankiki - she's sharing regular, visually stimulating content that inspires her 14,500 followers with her personal brand of veganism. Her content is friendly, accessible and adaptable, which is the recipe for a successful content marketing strategy. Another shining example of utilising social media to spread the veg is PETA UK’s Starter Kits, which include the use of WhatsApp for members to receive daily tips and recipes. Genius aye.
The content produced to promote veganism is richer, stronger and more meaningful than your average marketing campaign, making it the content marketer’s dream.
GO GARY, GO!
The growing success of vegan marketing also lies in the consistent reoccurrence of messaging in a consumer’s daily life – if they’ve been exposed to one advert promoting the vegan lifestyle diet, then there’s a good chance that with every meal thereafter the advert’s message will recycle in their head. Do I eat this sausage? Should I munch on the mince in this lasagne? Does vegan cheese really taste the same?
According to Karin Ridgers, MC for VegfestUK and Director of VeggieVision TV, who is 20 years a vegan: “It’s the best lifestyle choice. You meet amazing, likeminded people, feel connected with your life, feel more aware of what you are eating and the choices you make with clothing too”.
Add to that what I consider the two most compelling reasons of all: reducing cruelty to animals and minimising your personal impact on climate change.
At the moment there are half a million people in Britain identifying as vegans (Ipsos MORI). If you’re thinking of joining them I suggest you connect with the Vegan Society or get involved with Viva!, a charity campaigning since 1994 to raise awareness. You can also attend a VegFestUK event like I did – there's one this weekend in Scotland, and the next in Brighton in the New Year, one of the UK’s vegan capitals.
Better yet, try the clever Veganalyser: an interactive app that only takes a sec to reveal whether you're a rampaging murderer or soul shepherd.
Apply the techniques used in marketing veganism to your own business or product by trying to:
- Produce friendly, adaptable content
- Sell a feeling not a literal product
- Link your message with a common daily process or product.