8 Marketing Lessons From BBDO's Dinty Moore 'Lumbersexual' Campaign

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“I put clothes on because people don’t like me to be in the woods naked,” growls prodigiously-bearded professional lumberjack Adrian Flygt, in a video feature produced by agency BBDO Minneapolis to kick off its 2016 “Lumberjacks Eat Moore . . . Dinty Moore” marketing campaign for Hormel’s beef stew.

The result is a “Lumberjacked Lumbersexuals” campaign – combining online video content, a dash of social media and PR, and event marketing – that we here at the MaccaPR blog have grown to love. Inspired by the lumberjack pictured on the Dinty Moore package, BBDO has embraced hairy, ax-wielding lumberjack hopefuls to make Dinty Moore’s 80-year-old legacy relevant to contemporary men. Check out this 3-minute introductory video for Dinty Moore:

In effect, BBDO positioned Dinty Moore stew as the glue that connected men who merely looked like lumberjacks to the men who actually were lumberjacks. As BBDO Minneapolis copywriter David Mackereth told ad site LittleBlackBook.com: “Dinty Moore is the meal that works so hard, it wears flannel . . . by connecting to a modern trend of lumbersexuals, we were able to entertain our core audience and solidify Dinty Moore as the lumberjack brand, all the while engaging with a younger more modern audience.” 

What’s especially remarkable is that neither the age of the Dinty Moore product (it was introduced in 1935) nor the length of the BBDO-Hormel relationship (swear to God, 85 years) seems to have dampened the fresh creativity in this campaign. This at a time when the average tenure of a CMO has dropped to barely 44 months (according to the Wall Street Journal) and the average length of an agency/client relationship has plummeted to fewer than 3 years, according to Bedford Group research.

Why does the Lumberjacked Lumbersexuals campaign work so well? First off, it’s got a three-phase story arc, a trilogy of content that flows from casting/auditioning of the lumberjack wannabes (such as this two-minute axe-hurling clip and 30-second chainsawing video), followed by the training of the four lumbersexuals in the woods of Stillwater, Minnesota (check out this Single Buck/Misery Whip saw demonstration below) and climaxing with the lumbersexuals competing with axe, saw and chainsaw in the July 2016 STIHL Timbersports US Championship in Chicago.

Our MaccaPR blog interviewed BBDO Minneapolis CEO and president Neil White and executive creative director Noel Haan to uncork these eight behind-the-scenes lessons that marketers can learn from the Lumberjacking Lumbersexuals:

Go Beyond the Brief

Hormel originally asked BBDO Minneapolis just to support Dinty Moore’s sponsorship of the STIHL Lumberjack competition in Chicago, with a modest budget. “But we had a huge passion for the Dinty Moore brand,” says Mackereth, “While we love vinyl banners, we were attracted to the second half of the brief: Figure out a way to build excitement around the brand on a small budget. A great challenge.” 

“So we agreed: 'Let’s go beyond what the client wants at the event, and make more than just a sponsorship out of it,’" adds White. “Another agency might have just answered the brief with a banner for the event and a print ad to be placed in the Chicago event program. Instead, we wanted to come up with video content that people would share with their friends. And the lumberjack theme made so much sense to us. Lumberjacks have a voracious appetite. Hungry people eat more. And hearty Dinty Moore is great for hungry people.” 

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Ride The Pop Culture Zeitgeist

Peek into any Starbucks, record store or hipster bar in Minneapolis, and you can’t miss the men who have embraced lumbersexual fashion– the urban North Woods, faux outdoors look includes plaid flannel shirts, Timberlands or Red Wings on the feet, once-rolled-up jeans, and – most importantly for their curated rustic look of grizzliness – a beard with optional ‘stache. Nostalgia for lumberjack machismo has already become a marketing bonanza for brands Red Wing Shoes, Faribault Woolen Mills, Smith and Forge Hard Cider, Gander Mountain and Duluth Trading Co. Why not for Dinty Moore? 

Recently, City Pages’ Tatiana Craine defined lumbersexuals as “the lovechild of the metrosexual and the hipster . . . his raw masculinity must be practiced after hours . . . (he’s) a desk jockey trapped in the concrete jungle . . . He’s a wannabe lumberjack with a killer sense of style – the lumbersexual is at the epicenter of a Minnesota-born trend that’s wormed its way to Manhattan rooftops and L.A. brew pubs . . . send the razor on a sabbatical. It’s beard time.”

There’s a sweet nostalgic innocence to BBDO’s lumbersexual videos, as the hirsute quartet take selfies and Instagram themselves roughing it in the Stillwater woods; but what’s undeniable is that BBDO links an older brand to a white-hot trend.

Drive Content With Character

Between its one professional lumberjack and the shaggy quartet of amateur lumbersexuals, the Dinty Moore campaign has more defined, memorable characters than all seven “Fast and Furious” movies.

Particularly irresistible is interior designer LumberMichael, who attempts to combine the intensity of actor Daniel Day Lewis with the rage of comedian Lewis Black and the narcissistic arrogance of - well, you know. “I’m going to go into this competition, and they’re going to see four guys,” Michael seethes about the judges for the upcoming Chicago contest. “But they’ll see only one man, though – that’s me.” 
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Match Your Brand’s Tone To Your Audience(s)

BBDO Minneapolis says their campaign was designed to have fun with the lumbersexuals without making fun of them; the tone was critical. Says Noel: “The younger, hipper crowd is okay with being poked fun of a bit – they admitted, 'Yeah, yeah – I get it. I dress like a lumberjack and I’m not a lumberjack!' Our agency had to strike a balance that recognized that their masculinity was still intact – even if they couldn’t yet do what lumberjacks do.” 

Adds White: “I spoke with Adrian, the professional lumberjack, and he told me, ‘The only difference between these guys (the lumbersexuals) and me is that I have calluses on my hands, and they don’t.’

Making the campaign’s tone even more challenging: BBDO aimed its Dinty Moore spots at a trio of polar opposite demographics. “The core target for Dinty Moore stew is older, blue collar, salt-of-the-earth guys,” says Haan. “But Hormel also wanted to reach a younger demographic who would be amused by the lumbersexuals. And finally, the campaign had to resonate with the women who buy the Dinty Moore product for both of those men. We were hoping for the same appeal that the Axe and Old Spice campaigns had for both men and women."

Brand Your Content  But With A Light Touch

What I found most remarkable about the “Lumberjacked Lumbersexuals” feature video begins early at 0:41 – it’s a campfire scene in which the lumberjacks bond over a bubbling pot of stew. I kept waiting for BBDO’s camera to break the spell and cut away to an image of a Dinty Moore can perched on a rock, or intrude with a Dinty Moore logo superimposed over a lumberjack’s face. But no – it never came, God bless the agency’s heart. The Dinty Moore branding is subtle throughout; so the Lumbersexual video content feels like a short-form comic feature on the order of Funny or Die, The Onion or College Humor that just happens to be brought to you by Dinty Moore, rather than advertising that’s clunkily disguised as a comic feature.

“The key for marketers is that when your brand creates content, it has to have a story built into it that engages consumers,” adds White. “Our audience was interested in the lumberjack story, from the auditions to finding out who might win at the event in Chicago. Once drawn into the lumbersexual story, consumers are more accepting when branding does enter the event, or the Dinty Moore website. Rather than pound people over the head with a logo and product branding, we made the content entertaining and then communicated that this entertainment was brought to you by . . . Dinty Moore.”

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Website Form Follows Function

Visit the “Lumbersexual” website, with its headline “Don’t Like Look Like a Lumberjack: Be A Lumberjack.” “It’s a simple site,” confesses Haan, “but it tells the lumbersexual story linearly from top to bottom. The website opens with the auditions (“First, we separated the lumbersexuals from the lumberjacks”), then the training (“Next, we chose four lumbersexuals to get lumberjacked”) and then introduces the consumer to the four lumberjacks – LumberBen, LumberIan, LumberJamin and LumberMichael. “It takes consumers through the journey the lumber guys went through,” says Haan. One exquisite design element on the site: as you scroll down the home page, a teeny little lumberjack slides down the left side of the page, rappelling down to encourage you to read further.

Embrace A Relevant Tagline

“Lumberjacks Eat Moore.” In those three words, BBDO got every element of a great tagline: the words feels inevitable, manage to include a portion of Dinty Moore’s product name, yet have enough ambiguity with its double-entendre to reward further attention. “That copy line – Lumberjacks Eat Moore – was written by BBDO copywriter/associate creative director David Mackereth,” says Haan. “We had the lumbersexual concept in place, but we made sure the copy let the consumer know what Hormel wanted them to do next. Those three words – Lumberjacks Eat Moore – are a light switch moment for hungry consumers. It also enables our agency to expand the campaign past this summer’s lumbersexual event.” 

Bringing Your Online Campaign Into the Streets

BBDO designed its online video campaign – supported by banner ads on Facebook and media buys on the STIHL Timbersports website – to climax in the brick and mortar “real” world of downtown Chicago with an event marketing finale. Dinty Moore’s professional lumberjack, Adrian, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the STIHL Timbersports competition. Given that nearly all of Dinty Moore product is ordered offline at supermarkets and C-stores, transitioning consumers from the digital campaign to the street experience was smart. 

Coming next – footage from Dinty Moore’s competitors in Chicago will be posted on moorejacks.com soon, with lumbersexual footage airing on ESPN-TV and on ABC-TV this fall as part of Hormel’s STIHL Timbersports sponsorship.

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And a final question: how can marketers maintain a client/agency relationship like Hormel and BBDO’s three-quarters-of a-century marriage? “You have to understand a client brand’s past, but you can’t take it for granted – what worked in 1935 for Dinty Moore won’t work in 2016," concludes White. "An agency-client partnership is like a marriage – you look at your partner (or your product) and say to yourself, is there something new that I haven’t seen before that will keep me engaged? And never forget: Brands are lighthouses for how consumers can navigate their world.”

Image Sources: BBDO Minneapolis / Dinty Moore / Simply Sinova

About the Author

Paul Maccabee

Paul Maccabee is president at Minneapolis-based Maccabee, a strategic public relations and online marketing agency.

Topics:  Brand Strategy, PR Perspectives

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