Collaborations with Phil Wright, the World of Dance and MrBeast are creating new traditions of fun and togetherness, Nicole Behne, VP of marketing explains to LBB’s Laura Swinton
Everyone’s heard of the Chicken Dance - it’s a staple of kids’ parties and weddings - but for Thanksgiving this year, one food company is hoping that the American public will adopt some new avian choreography: the Turkey Dance.
Ahead of Thanksgiving, turkey producer Jennie-O has pulled out all the stops to ensure that this year’s festivities are full of fun - particularly after two years’ of Covid-constrained celebrations. Part of that is a gleeful turkey-inspired TikTok dance, created by influencers and renowned choreographers Phil Wright and the World of Dance. The team hope to encourage families to get silly and let loose. Moreover, back in November, they collaborated with YouTuber MrBeast to give 10,000 free turkeys to families in need - and the film has just hit the web on November 24th and it's already clocked up over a million views, just 24 hours later.
LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with Jennie-O’s VP of marketing to find out why they decided to take a distinctly non-traditional approach to this cornerstone of the Thanksgiving meal.
LBB> As our readers are from all over the world, we’d love to know about the cultural context of the Thanksgiving turkey and where Jennie-O sits as a brand in this space and the strategic challenges?
Nicole> Thanksgiving is a big holiday here in the states, and turkey is the reigning star. Consumers may have a variety of reasons for purchasing a certain type of turkey. For many, the main consideration is the size of the turkey to buy to accommodate the number of people eating the meal, and planning for everyone’s favourite - leftovers. The next thing is how to prepare it. For example, some consumers may want a turkey they cook themselves, while others may want something that’s more convenient, so they have more time to interact with others and less time in the kitchen. They may want to roast it, barbecue it, smoke it, fry it, and more. Jennie-O has the perfect solution for any preference, whether it’s a more traditional fresh or frozen turkey or our fantastic Jennie-O® OVEN READY™ turkey that’s ready to put in the oven, straight from the freezer! It’s a great option for consumers that want a simple and hassle-free way to prepare turkey for Thanksgiving.
LBB> This Thanksgiving is a bit different to the previous two years! How has that context influenced your approach to the marketing this year?
Nicole> In September, Jennie-O conducted a Thanksgiving survey of more than 2,000 consumers and received some really interesting information about how they’re planning to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday this year. Thanksgiving last year was different, as many families were unable to gather and celebrate. And while we’re all clambering to get back to normalcy, we know people are still cautiously preparing for the upcoming holiday season. We also wanted to make sure to bring excitement to this special holiday with several key moments - the Jennie-O Turkey Dance TikTok campaign, an event with YouTube phenom MrBeast, and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
LBB> It's really interesting that you've leaned in really hard on YouTube and TikTok - quite often this time of year, marketers can get a bit blinded by nostalgia and more traditional ideas of 'who does the cooking'. Millennials are parents now, after all! What sort of conversations did you have internally and what sort of insights guided your approach?
Nicole> At Jennie-O, we believe everyone deserves to live and eat well, and part of living well includes having fun and enjoying time with your friends and family. In addition to providing the Thanksgiving centerpiece - the turkey - we also wanted to give our consumers something fun to do with their families and friends as they celebrate this Thanksgiving. What better way to do that than with dance? The Chicken Dance is a staple at weddings and celebrations, we want to make the Jennie-O Turkey Dance iconic for Thanksgiving and the holidays!
LBB> And jumping off from that, the Helpline is a great idea! This seems like something that has the potential to be an annual tool - what have been the challenges of bringing that to life?
Nicole> This IS an annual tool - in fact, we are now in our 14th year of offering our Turkey Hotline at 1-800-TURKEYS! From calculators that tell the host how much turkey to buy, to full menus for Thanksgiving dinner and inspiring suggestions for preparing tasty leftovers, Jennie-O offers easy solutions for the holiday meal. Consumers can reach out for real-time support through Nov. 28 via the easiest method for them, phone, text or email. Consumers can also track their fresh or frozen JENNIE-O® whole turkey back to its originating farm through the JENNIE-O® Turkey Tracker on jennieo.com.
LBB> One of your activations is a collaboration with YouTube star MrBeast, where you gave away 10,000 free turkeys to families in need in Greenville, North Carolina. Why was it important to have a philanthropic aspect to your Thanksgiving efforts?
Nicole> Jennie-O Turkey Store and our parent company, Hormel Foods, are very active throughout the country and world in our philanthropic efforts. Over the last five years, Hormel Foods has donated more than $50 million in cash and products, and given that Thanksgiving is about gratitude, it’s a great opportunity for us to give back. In fact, Jennie-O recently made our largest donation in the company's 80-year history when we gave away 10,000 turkeys with MrBeast in the Greenville, NC area and neighboring cities. It was incredible. Check it out here.
LBB> Were these activations conceived/produced in-house or did you work with external partners to bring them to life?
Nicole> It was a total team effort! Our internal marketing team worked with our great communications team at our parent company, Hormel Foods, and collaborated with agency partners starting as early as March to bring all these activations to life.
LBB> Tell me about the Turkey Dance! What was it like working with Phil Wright and World of Dance and how are you planning to encourage pick up? (and has it become a favourite in the Jennie-O offices?)
Nicole> Phil Wright and the World of Dance have been incredible to work with. The music, the choreography and the social media magic all came perfectly together to create the Jennie-O Turkey Dance. In addition, we worked with some of today's most popular dance influencers to help us spread the word, as they have more than 52 MILLION subscribers across Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. We are challenging different internal departments, partners, retailers, interns and more to do the dance. Even our brand mascots are getting in on the fun. It's so exciting to see it all come together!
LBB> Every brand would love a viral dance hit on TikTok, but why do you think it's so perfect for a family event like Thanksgiving? What are your hopes for it?
Nicole> Like sharing a special meal, dancing is the perfect way for intergenerational family members to connect and create memories. The Jennie-O Turkey Dance celebrates the delicious centre of every holiday table – the Jennie-O® turkey. Whether you’re with your loved ones physically or virtually this year, doing The Jennie-O Turkey Dance is a special way for family members of all ages to bond, laugh and have a great time