This luncheon-meat devotional continues with a “Book of SPAM” graphic, an encyclopedic compendium of all things SPAM that can be purchased online by disciples who click on the “What Is SPAM?” link (if you’d rather not spend the dough, you can still garner quite a few nuggets from the free downloadable FAQ).
In another area of the site, SPAM is referred to as “the cradle of civilization,” while true followers are exhorted to take a pilgrimage (“a necessary journey for anyone who loves canned meat”) to the SPAM Museum in Austin, MN. The museum, which receives more than 20,000 SPAM connoisseurs each year, has its own dedicated section on the site, complete with hours, directions, and images and descriptions of what you’ll find inside the 16,500-square-foot building (think retro SPAM ads, artifacts, and even a place where you can try your hand at cramming “sweet pork magic” into a 12-ounce can).
The site also features a section devoted to “Spamfessionals,” brand evangelists who spout forth their feelings about their favorite lunch spread. Such fervent proclamations as “I think if I were going to the electric chair, I would ask for SPAM as my last meal” and “If everybody had a SPAMMOBILE [the official national tour bus] in their town or municipality, there’d be no wars or crime ever again” serve as testaments to the brand loyalty that has become SPAM’s bread and butter.
In fact, what may have once been a guilty pleasure for many consumers is now encouraged in these cathartic online outpourings: “I put SPAM in my oatmeal once—that’s all I want to say”; “I never tried SPAM before…. I make SPAM once a week now”; “I eat SPAM every year on my birthday, and I’ve never told anyone that.” They all hold the same promise: You’ll be hooked once you sink your teeth into the pink, ambrosial slabs of heaven.
This brand fanaticism is catered to through a listing of various events and venues featured online. In addition to the museum, visitors can find out where and when the next SPAM-oriented festival (a.k.a. SPAM Jam) will take place, or when the SPAMMOBILE will be heading through your hometown on its “mission of deliciousness.”
True die-hards can link to the Spam Fan Club: Paint a SPAM picture, pen lyrics to a SPAM-based song, or otherwise show your love for the Hormel product. The online SPAM store features all the requisite T-shirts, hats, bobbleheads, and even costumes you’d need to start your own unofficial SPAM repository.
The site attempts to satiate the cravings of its constituency with a database-driven recipe search (look by category, cuisine, or prep method), as well as links to recipes created by the fans themselves (including such novelties as SPAM Pizza Pockets, Maui SPAM Muffins, and SPAM salad cones). The annual recipe contest begs for new SPAM innovations, while the “Varieties” link covers all the brand extensions (with everything from hickory-smoked, oven-roasted turkey, and low-sodium versions to SPAM Golden Honey Grail, a shout-out to Monty Python’s Spamalot Broadway production).
Even with its loyal fan base, SPAM needed a little rebranding after seven decades of sodium-nitrite-infused succulence. To continue the celebration of SPAM’s 70th anniversary last year, Hormel pulled out all the stops at the beginning of 2008 with a major marketing initiative that includes new TV spots and print ads, all designed to drive SPAM lovers to the new and improved SPAM website.
The site advertises the brand’s celebration of self with cross-promoted links to the new SPAMTASTIC TV and print ads in the SPAM Media section, comfortably situated on the bottom of the home page. The hues behind the new “Blue and Yellow World” campaign (based on the dominant color scheme on SPAM pull-top packaging) have also been integrated into the site, with a sunny-yellow foundation bolstering up the blue skies of the SPAM-infiltrated neighborhood cookouts depicted on the site.
As a brand, SPAM has had to combat its annoying affiliation with Internet “spam,” the term for unsolicited commercial e-mail brought about by a Monty Python skit in which a group of Vikings sang “Spam, spam, spam” in an increasing crescendo, much like the Internet spam “drowns out normal discourse on the Internet.” The Hormel brand addresses this problem on its site, acknowledging that while it doesn’t object to the use of this term in general, it does object to the term being used as a trademark (and watering down the canned-meat’s famous trademark) or to using the SPAM logo or imagery in any way in this regard.
Whether the revitalized SPAM campaign has helped gain new admirers or simply offered its current devoted demographic a centralized gathering place, Hormel has said that strong sales of SPAM have helped boost its first-quarter earnings by 17 percent. And with a newly beefed-up site, online SPAM has become the polar opposite of Internet spam: Unlike junk e-mail, Hormel’s online product knows how to deliver a message people are actually hungry for.