Slim Jim meat snacks are made by GoodMark Foods, Inc. of Raleigh, North Carolina. GoodMark also manufactures and markets other snacks, including Pemmican Beef Jerky, Penrose/Big Mama snack sausages, and Andy Capp’s Fries. GoodMark is an Independent Operating Company (IOC) of ConAgra, Inc., the second largest food company in the U.S. Slim Jim is a mature brand that has been in existence for over 50 years. The original Slim Jim was a long, slender pepperoni that was sold in taverns and general stores in the Northeast. Over the years, Slim Jim has been transformed into the spicy, zesty snack that it is today.
Slim Jim has enjoyed a long history of successful marketing programs. This flagship brand has been responsible to carrying the parent company, GoodMark Foods, through a series of acquisitions, management buy-outs, and an IPO. Slim Jim has long been a staple of the convenience store customer, and has experienced slow and steady growth over the years.
However, in the mid-1990s, the brand began to see more competitive players in the field of meat snacks. The traditional consumer base (primarily blue-collar convenience store customers) began to experience slow dilution as new brands entered the market. Despite maintaining it’s position as a category leader, Slim Jim’s “share of stomach” was slowly eroding. Slim Jim’s brand positioning and marketing strategy needed to be evaluated, and changes had to me made. GoodMark Foods engaged Richard French & Associates in the spring of 1998 to begin evaluating the entire family of snack brands, with special attention being paid to Slim Jim.
Slim Jim and RF&A faces several challenges within the marketing and PR programs:
- The consumer base was aging up. The traditional Slim Jim customer was losing his/her taste for the spiciness and high-fat content of Slim Jim
- New competitors were entering the market. Frito Lay, Jack Links, and dozens of lesser known and house brands began to appear.
- Current marketing vehicles were becoming stale. Slim Jim’s old standbys, like NASCAR and professional wrestling, were beginning to lose their luster, and in many cases, the programs had become prohibitively expensive for a company the size of GoodMark.
- Other communications tools, from POP to advertising, were stale and off target.
- Prior to RF&A’s engagement, there was no concerted PR effort supporting the brand.
RF&A began by evaluating the current positioning of the brand. Traditionally, Slim Jim had been marketed to a blue-collar, male audience age 25 +. This positioning seemed limiting, considering that the target was ever aging and nothing was being done by the brand to attract new, younger consumers. The agency also evaluated the marketing programs to determine their effectiveness and cost/benefit ratio. Lastly, the agency began to analyze teen demographic research, such as Teen Research Unlimited (TRU) and our own focus groups with high-school students to identify opportunities for the brand to grow “younger” and attract new users. The agency has refined the focus of the brand over the past two years.
- Teens have emerged as the natural new target for the brand for the following reasons:
- Teens have an increasingly large amount of expendable income
- Teens want a brand that is theirs and theirs alone, not what their parents choose
- Teens drive other consumer consumption trends
- No competitor was currently marketing to teens
- Cost of entry into teen marketing programs was comparatively inexpensive
Objectives for Slim Jim in 2000
- Maintain category leadership and increase margin
- Increase sales volume by 15% over previous year
- Leverage existing marketing properties to teens
- Establish a guerilla marketing strategy to keep costs down and maintain legitimacy among teen consumer – don’t “sell out”
- Identify and implement new opportunities to market the brand
- Identify and implement new opportunities to extend and license the brand
- Drop marketing programs deemed off target
- Generate significant trade and consumer media, creating the push/pull to keep the brand in front of consumers, and keep consumers requesting the brand
- Become a leader in teen marketing
- Operate within strict budgetary parameters
Utilized brand spokespersons – Macho Man Randy Savage, extreme athlete, and multi-gold medal winner Dave Mirra to generate media and consumer interest. Specifically, agency conducted several guerilla-marketing programs at the X Games in San Francisco, and the Gravity Games in Providence, R.I. to generate a “perceptual” sponsorship of the events. By taking Macho Man to national and local TV and radio stations, the brand managed to draw a direct association with these successful teen properties. At the X Games, the Macho Man was invited on stage to introduce several contest winners and other VIP hosts.
Additionally, the agency took Macho Man and Dave Mirra to several retail locations to generate consumer interest and drive traffic directly to the retail outlet.
Via associations with video game companies, “teen” retailers, etc. the brand began to register as a definitively “teen” brand.
Agency assisted in gratis brand inclusions in several high-profile video games from 989 Studios, Acclaim, and EA.
Agency developed high-concept creative, dimensional mailers for the consumer and trade media to announce new marketing programs, new product introductions, etc.
Agency leveraged new marketing properties, including Slim Jim guy, directly to consumers, through media relations and a Halloween costume program, whereby the agency sent 100 costumes to radio-stations and consumers nationwide to wear in Halloween parades and at parties.
Agency assisted in leveraging the brand into apparel retailers with an upcoming line of branded Slim Jim apparel.
Agency identified several product placement opportunities, including several mentions on The David Letterman Show, Drew Carey, as well as a number of TBA teen-targeted feature films.
Agency assisted in determining that the brand discontinue its NASCAR sponsorships. The sport is diluted with brands and does not reach the teen consumer. NASCAR has also become too expensive for a smaller company to make an effective impression.
Maintained dominance in category and increased sales 25% over previous year.
Agency fields an increasing number of opportunities from other “teen” properties for our expertise in reaching this target.
Agency executed all programs within budget parameters.
Agency generated over $3 million in earned media during calendar 2000.