Is Veganuary a Flagship Video Event for Brands?

By Linda Freund · January 24, 2020

Want to light up Millennial and Gen Z video audiences? Veganuary (aka Vegan January) is the event to follow.

Every January, adventurous participants ditch meat, fish, and dairy for the entire month. Their reasons vary from health and weight loss goals to animal welfare and environmental concerns.

Veganuary, the UK-based organization behind this global charge, registered 250K participants in 2019 and expects to hit 300K this year. Most participants are female and young, according to analysts.

Veganuary is rapidly becoming a tentpole event for brands online. In 2019, Veganuary video content racked up 12.1M views on Facebook. Last year’s takeaway: audiences can’t get enough vegan dessert videos and Beet Wellington (Chef Gordon Ramsay’s vegan take on the Beef Wellington).

A year later, vegan-themed videos have hit their adolescence. They’re punchy and raw (literally), as brands creatively target young audiences on how to go vegan.

  • Raw meat is hurled at carnivores to support the vegan cause, in its inaugural ad by Veganuary. #cringe
  • Rockstar legend Meat Loaf goes vegan, in an ad for UK-based, Italian food chain Frankie and Benny’s. Will Meat Loaf change his name to Veg Loaf? No way, he says to his pesky PR reps. He would do anything for veg, but he won’t do that.
  • Subway tells a restaurant full of non-meat eaters they were accidentally served meat in their Veganuary ad promoting their Meatless Meatball Marinara Sub. Things get uncomfortable, to say the least.

Read on for more on how this growing cultural movement is playing out on video feeds.

The Vegan Audience Profile: Young, Animal Lovers, Women

Veganuary’s audience data, as found by Tubular, offers useful insights about those who are seeking more information about a vegan or flexitarian lifestyle. This data can help brands when targeting future campaigns to this interest group.

Firstly, the Veganuary social video channels have 41.6% of viewership in the UK and 31% in the United States, showing the movement is gaining traction in America.

In addition, 5.2% of the viewership hails from Australia, suggesting this region may be the next area of growth for vegan products and marketing in the coming years. APAC teams, get on this pronto.

On Facebook, 85% of Veganuary’s viewers are female. Finally, the movement’s viewers are mostly young. On Facebook, 40% of the audience is aged 25-34 and 22.5% is aged 18-24 years old.

On YouTube, 32.5% of the audience is aged 25-34 and 24% is aged 18-24 years old.

This is in line with external data trends. In the United States, for example, a quarter of 25-34-year-olds say they are vegan or vegetarian, according to the Economist.

The takeaway? Clearly, vegan or animal welfare themes resonate with younger viewers. This is further supported by what Veganuary viewers are also watching: The Dodo, a video channel dedicated to adorable animal videos.

More videos that connect Veganuary participation and overall dietary choice to animal welfare may be worth pursuing.

An effective budding example of this is Tropic Skincare’s Veganuary content. Powerful shots of cute animals in their habitat accompany a corporate pledge to never test on animals or harm the environment.

Veganuary: Trust Your Instinct and Go Vegan

Veganuary resonates especially well in the UK. In Great Britain alone there are around 600K vegans, according to Vegan Society research, with twice as many women vegans as men.

They join the ranks of countless vegan celebrities, including Sir Paul McCartney, Simon Cowell, Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus, Ellen DeGeneres, and Woody Harrelson.

This year, Veganuary, the organization behind the event, released its first official ad to drum up more support among UK and U.S. audiences. The video features interviews with a cross-section of nationalities about their food preferences.

During the interview, the self-proclaimed carnivores are suddenly thrown slabs of raw meat. Most flinch or dart out of the way. The veg-lovers, on the other hand, are thrown vegetables, which they readily catch. “Trust your instinct,” the summative caption reads.

To promote the ad, Veganuary also released a video a few days prior, featuring their celebrity ambassadors, including Evanna Lynch and Carl Donnelly. The camera is fixed on the stars as they get a sneak peak of the official ad. You can see their reaction, but not the ad itself.

This cart-before-the-horse strategy is a creative way to build up hype. What are they seeing that I haven’t yet? And it effectively turned the ad’s release into an event. This proves extra effective for the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) afflicted among us.

Musician Meat Loaf’s Unique Veganuary Celebration

Meat Loaf stars in Italian food chain Frankie and Benny’s latest Veganuary campaign. In the ad, the rocker is asked to change his name to Veg Loaf. “It’s PR genius,” his hipster manager says.

Meat Loaf’s answer? A resounding “NO!” But amid the antics, the restaurant’s growing vegan menu is highlighted. Vegan cheese fries anyone?

This ad can, perhaps, be best described as the anti-endorsement endorsement. It puts an innovative twist on the function of a celebrity in a social video context.

Celebs can propel the story, even have a stake in it, but they don’t always have to fully embrace or trumpet the product on offer.

In fact, their dissent (and associated tension) in a social video is one way to increase audience watch time (which is total gold in today’s competitive video landscape). Who among us didn’t watch to the end to see if Meat Loaf stuck to his guns?

This counter-intuitive ad strategy has succeeded in the past in cutting through millennial skepticism, all the while promoting an important cause. It goes so far as brands distinctly asking consumers not to fly on its planes all the time (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines) or buy its product (apparel brand Patagonia on Black Friday 2011).

Read Next: How #TeamTrees Used Social Video to Help Save the Planet

The Rise of Vegan Fast Food

To meet Veganuary demand, fast food joints have become total vegan safehouses. Most have collaborated with Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods, the two kingpins in the vegan space, known for their plant-based burgers that taste like real meat.

Look no further than McDonald’s McVegan Burger, KFC’s Beyond Chicken, Subway’s Beyond Meatball Marinara, and Burger King’s Rebel Whopper, to name a few.

And in the UK, the epicenter of vegan food launches, two hundred new vegan products and menus launched in January 2019 alone, according to Veganuary.

Social video feeds are saturated with these new food offerings. The most-viewed of the batch this year is a slow-motion reveal of Marks and Spencer’s Plant Kitchen food line. But beyond flashy visuals, how are food brands differentiating themselves in such a congested market?

Last year’s branded Veganuary food content was centered on myth-busting: to go vegan doesn’t mean going rabbit. It’s not all-salads-all-the-time. And, no, vegan food doesn’t have to taste like cardboard.

In Frankie and Benny’s 2019 Veganuary campaign, the restaurant brand invited PETA staff on camera to taste test their new vegan menu, which included Mac No Cheese and the Viva La Vegan burger. “Going vegan doesn’t mean going without,” one PETA taste tester said.

This year, the social video taste-testing has evolved. Vegan taste tests are proving to be a video genre, garnering more than 16M cross-platform views in the past 365 days. Among the top-performing are drunken vegan fast food tests (hilarious) and efforts to convert committed meat-eaters.

Brands are leveraging this genre to not only show the food actually tastes good. They’re also saying: bring on the blindfolds! Most of the major fast food chains, from Burger King to KFC, have sponsored influencer-run taste tests in the past year.

These days, it’s virtually impossible to discriminate vegan offerings from the standard meat fare. And, with this, brands are making a case for longterm adoption.

Subway’s Great Meatball Hoax of 2020

Sandwich chain Subway put its own twist on the vegan taste test this Veganuary in “The Taste Test Balls Up” ad. In the video, the brand invites members of the UK meat-free community to try its new Meatless Meatball Marinara Sub.

After a few bites, the host dupes the crowd. “Everyone, I think they’ve given us the meat one,” she says.

The guests are shocked. Keep in mind, this was a live event. Totally unscripted. Finally, an organizer confirms this is, indeed, the vegan meal.

The message: the meatballs are so dang meat-like you just can’t tell the difference. Extensive viewer video comments from customers support this claim.

This reality television-advert hybrid is an effective, albeit risky, way to bake authenticity into a product launch.

And, as stated time and again, the more authentic a brand’s voice, the more eager Millenial and Gen Z viewers are to engage with content.

Takeaway: Veganuary Is Here to Stay, Remind Viewers Why

Veganuary is sure to be a tentpole event for years to come. So, where are the areas of growth?

This year Veganuary expanded its footprint beyond eating habits. What you put on your body matters, too.

Influencers are showcasing the must-have Veganuary makeup products and brands, like Aveda, are promoting special veganuary skin and hair care kits. Expect more Veganuary-targeted beauty campaigns in the coming years.

That said, amid the vegan product launches and punchy marketing, now may be just the time to go back to basics. Food brands are in an arms race to capture the vegan market.

New products. New videos. More new products. More new videos. And they’re so set on proving their taste credentials, that they’ve clearly lost track of the verifiable why.

Why are audiences going vegan in the first place? And how do you harness social video to really connect your product to this why?

This is a white space ripe for excavation. After all, vegan food should not only taste good but make someone feel good about eating it, too.

For example, almost a quarter of U.S. consumers aged 18-34 have cut out animal products for environmental reasons, according to Mintel.

Social video can be harnessed to remind these consumers how their dietary choices might reduce their carbon footprint. Or, if they’re really savvy, use as a jumping-off point to dive into how small actions, like Veganuary, recycling, or planting a tree, can make a big difference.

Curious what other food trends have been on the rise across social video?

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