Monday, May 25, 2009

Wiener envy

As the recession wears on, consumers are starting to embrace cheap food again. As a result, the humble hot dog is making a comeback.

Of course, demand fuels competition, and the big news on tubesteak marketing right now is the false advertising suit Sara Lee has launched against Kraft for saying that the former's Oscar Mayer Jumbo Beef Franks have been "proven" to taste better than that latter's Ball Park franks in a vaguely documented "national taste test":

According to Sara Lee, "The suit claims Oscar Mayer is presenting a taste superiority claim against the entire line of Ball Park branded hot dogs - this is both false and misleading to consumers. Such claims contain an unclear and inconspicuous footnote in very small type that also falsely implies that more than one variety of Ball Park franks was tested."

"This is a weak attempt by Oscar Mayer to mislead millions of consumers with false and inaccurate claims. Simply put, we believe that these untrue statements are all a bunch of bologna," said Chuck Hemmingway, brand director.

Bad puns aside, it's interesting just how seriously this affront is being taken, considering the subjective nature of the claims.

Personally, I think that Sara Lee is just jealous of the massive viral campaign Kraft has used to penetrate the social media.

For example, Oscar Mayer's YouTube group has generated an enormous consumer response. By tapping into American consumers' endless hunger for Internet fame, the campaign manages to collect great moments of awkward modern Americana like this:

The beefy new franks are also targetting the mommy brigade, featuring in blogvertising like
"Hot dogs and summer just seem to go together – whether at baseball games, backyard barbeques, or just as a quick and easy dinner before dashing off to camp, practice or the pool. But they can be a much healthier mealtime option by choosing all-beef franks, and Oscar Mayer’s Premium Beef Franks are the best tasting ones that I’ve come across."

Kraft/Oscar Mayer is fuelling its social media efforts with a huge weenie giveaway, handing out a million dollars worth of hot dogs last Wednesday in advance of Memorial Day Weekend.

It's interesting to note that the other wiener in the battle, New York's classic streetmeat Hebrew National, has avoided the controversy. Instead they played to their base, giving away 45,000 hot dogs today in Times Square.

I doubt my family and I will be joining any of these big brand sausage fests over the summer, though. To be honest, industrially-processed meat kind of grosses me out. (Did you see that "Meat International" site? Eeeewwww.) I'll keep getting my hot dogs hand-made by a local master in Ottawa's Byward Market. At least I know where that sausage has been.

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