Meat-free messages

by Tom Albrighton 28 January 2013 Copywriting reviews

It’s been a bad few weeks to be a meat-eater, with lurid coverage of adulterated burgers, atrocious conditions in UK abbattoirs and cut-price processed meat products. Arguably, there’s never been a better time to be selling foods that are free not only of horse, but of all types of animal. So it’s interesting to see the positioning for this recent Quorn ad, which avoids the vegetarian angle entirely.

Tactical substitution

When it comes to ‘meat substitutes’, vegetarians sometimes optimistically maintain that they taste just as good. This draws a predictable and tiresome response from ‘red-blooded’ carnivores banging on about bacon sandwiches. The resulting argument is profoundly unedifying, and definitely not somewhere you want to go in your ad.

So Quorn sidestep the trap completely. Their ad begins where that debate ends, by taking substitutability for granted and focusing on the health benefits. The ad positions meat and Quorn as direct equivalents, one of which happens to be far healthier than the other. No mention is made of ‘meat’, ‘meat-free’, ‘vegetarian’ or anything alluding to the actual content of the product.

Conversion rate

Wisely, Quorn have realised that they do not have to convert the viewer to vegetarianism in order to convince them to try the product. ‘Just make one change,’ cajoles the copy, reassuringly. It’s not a big deal! Just try it! Your builder husband is going to love it!

If the customer becomes a veggie later on, great. If they don’t, they might still keep buying the product. And of course, you can realise many of the benefits of not eating meat without becoming a committed vegetarian. You might not be able to get on your high horse about it, but you will still have a healthier diet and do your bit to save the planet if you just cut down on meat.



Roast beef: the poor man’s aubergine

Since they’re downplaying the ‘no meat’ angle, it seems Quorn aren’t bothered about targeting actual vegetarians. Based on my experience, that’s the right strategy. Veggies are usually aware of the various meat substitutes available – but their diet rarely revolves around ‘Quorn-and-two-veg’ meals anyway.

When you go veggie, things like Quorn are more like electronic cigarettes – a psychological crutch to ease your sense of denial in the early stages. Once you get the bit between your teeth, you’re galloping through the world of meat-free cooking like a Grand National winner. And you realise that spongy beige soya is no match for the mighty, mighty aubergine.

Suspect sausages

Not everyone likes Quorn’s positioning. Check out this forum comment (original here):

I’ve noticed [Quorn’s] new advert, where they’re barbecuing “sausages” and something else, and I thought to myself, there is absolutely nothing in that advert to indicate that the product is a non-meat product.

If anything they’ve carefully crafted the advert so that unsuspecting viewers would be of the belief it’s a meat product, and therefore likely to go out and find some.

Are they even allowed to do that?

If Quorn were trying to convince people their product was meat, such a strategy wouldn’t get much further than the first mouthful. Rather, I think they’re just trying to get the audience into a place where the meat/non-meat distinction isn’t the be-all and end-all.

Semantically, Quorn are sailing fairly close to the wind. While Wikipedia says that sausages ‘usually’ contain meat, other sources list only meat fillings. Presumably, all Quorn’s on-pack descriptions have been cleared by the Relevant Authorities, but they do seem to play a little bit faster and looser in their copy.

Science bit

In terms of the execution, I love the shrinking book of ‘favourite meals’ that opens the ad. You could almost believe there really is an officially sanctioned list of favourite meals, which Quorn have exhaustively analysed for calorific content. It’s rather like the ‘science bits’ that are used to bamboozle potential buyers of shampoo and toilet cleaner.

Overall, I think this is a great ad. It knows who it’s talking to and it hits them with everything it’s got, while refusing to get bogged down in other people’s agendas. And who knows, it might even help to reduce the number of animals – horses, cows, or whatever – that are stunned with electric tongs to the head, drained of blood while still alive and stuck in a 12p burger.

Tags: , , , , , , ,