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    Jack Link's Shifts Brand Vision to 'Protein Snacking’

    Meat snacks giant broadens image with new product lines, marketing strategies.

    MINONG, Wis. — Thirty-year meat snacks veteran Jack Link’s wants to shift its gas station jerky image to something more meaty.

    The Minong-based meat snacks giant is in the process of broadening its image and attracting new customers with the expansion of its product lines, shifting its marketing strategies, and opening a new showroom and office in downtown Minneapolis, reported StarTribune.

    "We’ve changed our brand vision and our company vision from being the dominant leader in jerky to really being the dominant leader in protein snacking," said Tom Dixon, chief marketing officer. "We feel like we have the ability to bring protein snacking to a whole other level because at the end of the day, you can’t out-protein meat."

    Founded in 1986, Jack Link’s has more than $1.2 billion in annual sales of jerky and other meat snacks, according to recent data from Chicago-based market research firm IRI.

    Despite the meat snacks category’s recent boom in popularity, Jack Link’s experienced a 5-percent drop in dollar share of jerky sales vs. the previous year. Its sales and market share have also taken a dip, the news outlet reported.

    To appeal to the change in customer demographics, Jack Link’s has started to make more concerted efforts, including the purchase of Grass Run Farms, whose jerky, beef sticks and summer sausage come from cattle raised without antibiotics and added growth hormones.

    The company is also making new introductions with:

    • Lorissa’s Kitchen. The jerky brand that comes in smaller pieces and has more moisture, making it easier to chew than traditional jerky. Soon, Jack Link’s will start a revamped national advertising campaign around the jerky brand.
    • Jack Link’s A.M. Rolling out next month, the breakfast products line includes brown sugar and maple bacon and sausage to show consumers that meat snacks can be eaten in the mornings.
    • Extra Tender Beef Jerky. The new line of jerky will roll out in March.

    MARKETING MOVES (WITH SASQUATCH)

    With the meat snacks category expanding its definition of the typical jerky consumer, women and millennials have become the focus of new marketing. Jack Link’s — known for its very male-centric ads featuring Sasquatch monster and a "Feed Your Wild Side" pitch — has been left to play defense, according to Robertson Allen, consultant for consumer foods research firm the Hartman Group.

    "I’ve heard of these premium brands that are really pushing the needle in terms of quality and what people are looking for and moving away from the stigma of convenience store, trucker, gas station sort of brand that Jack Link’s has controlled and dominated for years," Allen commented.

    Beefing up its marketing strategies, Jack Link’s worked with Minneapolis advertising agency Carmichael Lynch to create ads riffing off 1980s workout videos called "Workin’ Out With Sasquatch" in 2016. Sasquatch leads the jerky-powered program based on physical prowess and physique, with the message that jerky is a healthy snack choice because it's high in protein and low in fat.

    The first spots feature celebrity athletes such as National Football League stars Odell Beckham Jr. and Clay Matthews. Upcoming new spots will feature Timberwolves basketball player Karl-Anthony Towns (KAT), who is 7-feet tall and weighs one-eighth of a ton.

    "Building on the success we’ve seen with Workin’ Out With Sasquatch, we’re expanding the integrated campaign as Jack Link’s jerky continues to protein-power the lives of all types of athletes," said Dixon. "Featuring Karl-Anthony Towns alongside Sasquatch was an obvious choice for Jack Link’s. They’re both tall and share the same shoe size, so naturally we knew they’d get along great."

    One spot, titled "Workin’ Out with KAT," shows Towns following Sasquatch’s lead to build strength by deadlifting a log, jumping over a porcupine, calisthenics through leg raises, light stretching, and 100-percent beef protein. In another spot called "What’s in KAT’s gym bag," Towns unveils his gym bag to show how its contents, including protein-packed Jack Link’s jerky and a fully grown North American badger.

    Two other spots include "Vest" and "Calves." In Vest, Towns shows off his pectoral muscles in a vest to demonstrate that protein is an essential part of muscle growth. In Calves, he shows off his shapely calves to express the benefit of the Sasquatch Workout’s daily calf raises routine followed up with Jack Link’s Original Beef Jerky and new Jack Link’s Extra Tender Beef Jerky. 

    The fully integrated marketing campaign includes the 30- and 15-second spots that will run on television networks including TNT, Adult Swim and FX. Content will also be served across the web on platforms including YouTube, Hulu and Funny or Die, as well on Jack Link’s social channels.

    Jack Link’s is also giving consumers the opportunity to win signed KAT gear, one-of-a-kind Sasquatch shoes, or an all-expense trip to the big game finals through an online video entry. Additionally, limited-edition KAT packs will be available on the Jack Link’s online store for purchase. Each KAT pack contains four varieties of jerky and a life-sized poster of KAT while supplies last.

    NEW MINNEAPOLIS DIGS

    As a part of the company’s branding transformation, a new 77,000-square-foot space at Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis is in the works. The facility includes contemporary offices, a restaurant space on the ground floor and a 12,000-square-foot research and development space.

    The new office will allow Jack Link’s marketing, sales and research and development teams to be centralized in one space. Company executives said they hope the new office will serve as a recruitment tool. Employees are expected to move into the office space by the end of the summer and start using the research space by November.

    The office will offer modern features like work cafes and resemble the space of a creative agency more than a corporate headquarters, said Derek McCallum, principal at RSP Architects, the lead design team.

    "Minneapolis plays a critical role as we expand our business both here in the U.S. and globally," said Troy Link, in a statement. "It’s a strong market for us to recruit top talent that will help drive our organization forward."

    Consumers can also visit a 1,000-plus-square-foot Jack Link’s retail store in the skyway level of Target Center, where they can buy new test products.

    "Half of the population still hasn’t participated with jerky or meat snacking," Dixon said. "And we know that there’s a lot of people out there that if you give them the right flavor or you give them the right texture or you give them the right form, they will begin to participate. … We are now opening ourselves up to compete on a much broader scale."

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