5 Brilliant vegan marketing case studies

with Sandra Nomoto, The content doctor

To celebrate the release of her new book ‘Vegan Marketing Success Stories‘, Sandra Nomoto and David Pannell discusses five of her favourite vegan marketing case studies from the book.

The case studies from this session:

1. Native advertising: Blue Tribe’s partnership with ScoopWhoop and doing taste tests with meat vs. Blue Tribe products on the OK Tested show

Mumbai-based Blue Tribe’s best marketing campaign involved a video partnership with content platform ScoopWhoop, not unlike BuzzFeed in the US. In a twelve-and-a-half-minute video, OK Tested’s non-vegan hosts did a blind taste test to see if they could tell the difference between Blue Tribe’s plant-based meats and regular meat.  Out of the three products tested, the hosts were fooled twice. The video was uploaded to YouTube (labelled as a “paid promotion”) and has been viewed over half a million times.

My favourite part of the video is the end, when the hosts discuss the benefits of a vegan diet. Sohil Wazir, Blue Tribe’s Chief Commercial Officer, said, “Our website traffic went up twenty times over the next few days! Needless to say, sales numbers from our direct to consumer platform were also at their peak during that week.” Blue Tribe built on the campaign with a series of videos involving omnivores being unable to decipher the taste of meat vs. its products, and saw high engagement with those videos too.

If you’re debating whether to go the traditional or native advertising route, consider who your audience is and what would be the most effective for them. Traditional ads are more straightforward in asking customers to buy, whereas native ads are more subtle.

2. Outdoor advertising: Ethical Brand Marketing’s ad for Doctors Against Animal Experiments on a truck owned by Markus Barth, who uses his fleet to raise awareness for animal causes

“What happens when a massive machine with images of poorly-treated farm animals being transported drives by? Drivers either get a thumbs-up by passer-bys or supporting people starting a conversation at rest stops,” blogged Jessica Lohmann of Ethical Brand Marketing.  In 2021, she designed a truck for Ärzte gegen Tierversuche e.V. (Doctors Against Animal Experiments), an organization in Europe that concentrates on getting animal testing banned. On September 15, 2021, the European Parliament had an almost unanimous vote (667 Yes, 4 No and 16 Undecided) for the complete phase out of animal experiments. This historical vote is not legally binding, but the European Commission must now create an EU-wide action plan by defining milestones and targets to replace lab animals with non-animal human-relevant methods.

Markus Barth, a passionate owner of a logistics company in Germany and vegan since 2010, is well-known for raising awareness for animal causes with his memorable and thought-provoking truck designs in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. His fleet consists of fifty trucks. Of seventy trailers, sixty have animal-friendly messages on them. Claus Kronaus, Managing Director of Doctors Against Animal Experiments, wanted his own design to spread awareness about animal testing and that’s how Jessica Lohmann became involved. She wrote in her blog:

“I thought about how to effectively present the truth about animal testing in a few words because there’s not much reading to be done by people flying by at 130+ km/h. We are talking about the Autobahn in Germany where there is often no speed limit and humans [are] in a rush. With all this in mind, I talked with a team member of the organization and we thought about typical lab animals. Who are they? Many are our own pets and so, we definitely wanted to show them. Behind bars. Imprisoned and not looking happy.”

It’s hard not to show support and sympathy because no one in their right mind wants cruelty done to pets. In the case of animal experimentation (and the animal farming industry), animal testers are apparently above the law because they’re allowed to perform heinous crimes even though it risks the lives of animals, humans included.“If only people knew the truth!”, I thought. And that’s how the headline was born: “We’re sick of dying for nothing!”For more information, it was important to add the URL and on the rear end of the truck, the team members wanted this message: “Medical progress is important—Animal testing is the wrong way!” along with the call-to-action: “Help us!”.In mid-October, the truck was finished and ready to roll! How have people reacted to Barth’s new truck design? With support and enthusiasm.

Doctors Against Animal Experiments created content about the truck on its blog and digital magazine, and social media posts of the truck were well received on Facebook and Instagram. Whether it’s a store, a billboard, or a moving vehicle, remember that you can also create content out of your outdoor ad.

3. Public relations: Media outreach & influencer marketing: Vegan Hospitality (formerly Vegan Aruba)’s use of multiple media & influencer trips to discuss veganism in & promote Aruba, resulting in its now-vegan-friendly reputation

Meredith Marin’s business, Vegan Hospitality, was born out of her first company, Vegan Aruba, a hospitality consulting business on the small Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba. Vegan Hospitality trains vegan activists around the world to start their own hospitality consulting businesses in their local communities. Over sixty vegans have graduated from the program in nineteen countries and eighteen US states. Although she hasn’t run major marketing campaigns for Vegan Hospitality yet, she shared some of her most successful marketing strategies for Vegan Aruba—starting with media outreach—that led to Aruba becoming the most vegan-friendly island in the Caribbean:

“I connected with local media (on radio, in newspapers, magazines, and on TV) and took every opportunity offered to discuss veganism and my mission to make the island vegan-friendly. I collaborated in producing an eight-episode TV show about veganism on the island, and during the show I gave a vegan food tour of a popular supermarket, and also held a contest for someone to join me on the last episode of the show and take a food tour of the island where we tasted lots of vegan food on camera. I was featured in several travel magazines talking about my work creating vegan menus for restaurants, which got lots of mainstream exposure for veganism. For example, Destination Magazine was in the back of seats on major airlines during the winter travel season, and Menu Magazine was in every hotel lobby. I spoke about veganism wherever I was invited. At restaurant and hotel association meetings, at festivals, for the government, at the university, at a climate strike, at the central bank. I tailored my speeches for the audience. I also rented out space at the local culinary school and taught vegan cooking classes.”

What I love about Meredith’s story is that whenever she was given a platform, she didn’t just make it about her business. She helped to create media, involved other businesses, and the general public. Her story has been featured in more than a few news outlets, and she’s also published pieces of her own.

4. Integrated digital marketing: Mid-Day Squares documenting everything, hiring a videographer before a salesperson, hosting a podcast, and an additional Instagram account + Facebook group just for its community

On top of serving functional chocolate bars that taste amazing, Mid-Day Squares operates its company like a media empire. The company produces a podcast called UNCENSORED!, and documents everything, from expanding distribution to raising money, experiencing shipping backlogs, mental health, challenges in developing new products, and changing its packaging after facing copyright infringement claims from bigger corporations. I became a fan of the brand before I had even tried the products, and when I did I became a superfan.

In the spring of 2021, VEG Networking Canada, a networking group I co-host for vegan professionals and entrepreneurs, had Mid-Day Squares CEO Lezlie Karls as a special guest. I asked about how the company developed its content team. Karls said three months into the business their second hire on the operations side—even before hiring a sales representative—was a videographer. People thought it was the wrong move. But when her brother Jake Karls joined the business, he said it needed to show everything. Its media department comprises six people, including Lezlie. She said:I felt uncomfortable putting myself and my life out there. And, I had to get okay with the uncomfortable because that was what we committed to. We brought on our first videographer, and that was the best decision we ever made. Because we have content and the story from day one, that’s what built our community. Without the storytelling, Mid-Day Squares is not what it is—without showing everybody what it takes to build this chocolate bar company and the good, the bad, the ugly, you know, it’s just not. We need it to have the differentiator and trailblaze when it comes to marketing. Mid-Day Squares is one of the most honest brands I’ve seen share its story online, and I believe it’s this honesty that’s attracted loyal followers who are eager to learn about its journey each step of the way.

5. Customer service + mapping out the customer/client journey: Vegan Business Tribe

Mapping out the customer journey is a huge key to the success of Vegan Business Tribe, a membership community which helps vegan businesses become more successful. Vegan Business Tribe is David Pannell’s sixth business and the third business that he and his partner Lisa Fox have run together. In their previous companies, they learned the value of understanding not just why, but how someone became a customer. What specific steps did they take on that journey? What one thing nudged them from being a browser into a buyer? Their strategy is very much informed by market research, helping them improve their service level the more they learn about their customers.

Vegan Business Tribe is one of the first networks I learned about on LinkedIn when I started my business in 2020. Membership was free as it built its global community online. In 2021, it rolled out its paid membership offering, and that’s when I saw its community grow. Vegan Business Tribe does a great job of taking photos of members who attend virtual meetings on Zoom and posting on social media. Almost every week I would see those smiling faces on LinkedIn and wonder what I was missing. When Vegan Business Tribe offered a free month’s trial (a sales promotion tactic), I finally tested out the membership for two months, which included a meeting with David Pannell and Lisa Fox and a Zoom meetup with members. I’ll let David Pannell tell their story:

“We have lots of strategies to create the touch points that we know the majority of our members need to go through before they sign up. Because we’re extremely mission-led we never think of our marketing as a sales process: we know there is power in numbers and the more businesses we get into the Vegan Business Tribe community, the more vegan companies we can help skill-up and the quicker we create a vegan world. Learning and mapping out someone’s journey to becoming a member has been the most important success factor in our growth. Knowing how someone becomes a customer and then working backwards means you can put a strategy in place to make the next person become a customer in half the time. And that’s what we’ve done.

For us, it’s been a case of working out how a member first heard about us right at the start of their journey and then documenting what made them decide to sign up. What was their thought process and what actions did they need to take to become a member? And then make sure we are going back to the people already in our audience and prompting them to also take those same steps. We find all this out by making sure we talk to each and every person who signs up with us at Vegan Business Tribe. We found that no one signed up to Vegan Business Tribe until they had some form of personal interaction with either me or Lisa. No amount of marketing or clever landing pages would get someone to sign up if they didn’t feel that they had made some kind of a personal connection with us first. So, a big part of our strategy was to go out and engage people in a genuine human conversation with us, usually through LinkedIn, email or by inviting them to a free, live, two-way event. If you really get to know your customer—and I mean really make them your best friends—you can work out where the definitive parts of that customer journey are and focus your energy and activity on those.”

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