The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


June 28, 2014

DAVID M. MASTOVICH | How do you like your hot dog? Ketchup, mustard and messaging

— Americans will eat more than 7 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day through Labor Day, 150 million on the Fourth of July holiday alone. If you have one, do you top it with ketchup or mustard?

According to a YouGov survey, the most popular condiment for hot dogs is mustard (72 percent) followed by ketchup (59 percent), onions (51 percent) and relish (47 percent).

Age has a big impact on our choice. Seventy-three percent of 16- to 34-year-olds ate their hot dogs with ketchup while only 41 percent of those 35 and older did.

Makes sense. Kids love ketchup. Children have different taste buds than adults and notice bitter-tasting foods more. Plus creative commercials help create long-lasting habits like adding ketchup to a hot dog. Remember the classic Heinz “Anticipation” commercial?

But sometimes one organization’s message hurts a complementary product.

The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council’s Do’s and Don’ts of Hot Dog Etiquette surely caught the attention of ketchup companies with this one:

“Don’t ... Use ketchup on your hot dog after the age of 18.

“Mustard, relish, onions, cheese and chili are acceptable.”

Whether you like your hot dog with ketchup, mustard or some other way, you can benefit from these Messaging Do’s and Don’ts:

Do … Focus on creative promotions to tell your story. Just like the hot dog industry promotes National Hot Dog Month, you can promote your anniversary, new equipment, locations and hires in a creative way.

Do … Make it about your target audiences. Why does it matter to them?

Don’t … Miss opportunities to promote your uniqueness. Develop a content calendar to tell your story throughout the year.

Don’t … Make messaging, branding and PR decisions by committee. You’ll end up with a little bit of what each person wanted and a lot of wasted advertising dollars.

David M. Mastovich is president of MASSolutions Inc., which focuses on improving the bottom line for clients through creative selling, messaging and PR solutions.

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