Even in – no, especially in – a turbulent economy, good marketing content remains king. But in our digitally saturated, attention-deficit world, finding new and creative ways to cut through the clutter and reach consumers is a challenge.
And it is this challenge that dairy sector has accepted with gusto.
Remember the famed Got Milk? campaign that forever sealed itself in the public’s collective conscience? (And if you don’t know the whole story, I highly recommend looking into it.)
Oh, but the humble glass of milk hasn’t stopped there.
Still today, dairy leaders are hard at work scoping out new ways to enhance and better market their business to local communities and the general public.
And these efforts aren’t limited to influencers or those who manage checkoff dollars. In fact, many of the most effective, well-received campaigns start with farm businesses and those who milk cows day-to-day.
“Today’s dairy leaders are redefining what it means to be sustainable businesses by elevating good business practices, developing and implementing transportation and logistics solutions, ensuring the highest standards for animal welfare, and committing to and achieving environmental stewardship throughout their supply chains.”International Dairy Foods Association
The evolving landscape
As the generational demographics shift, more consumers want to engage with those who produce their go-to products. They have a keen interest in better understanding what they are consuming and how food is produced and processed.
This is both curse and blessing.
Folks may be erroneously led to seek information from inaccurate sources. But there is an open invitation for farmers and other dairy industry stakeholders to tell their stories and promote their products.
To be successful in this endeavor, the dairy community must understand what matters to consumers. For example, sustainability is a hot-button issue that isn’t going anywhere. Addressing this issue is not limited to the farm level. Even dairy processors are becoming more innovative in how they sell their products with a sustainable bent.
These companies were quick to showcase their participation in the dairy industry’s collective effort to become carbon neutral by 2050 through the Processor Working Group led by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy. Among these key players are Land O’Lakes, Kroger, Dari-Gold, Prairie Farms, Hood, and Hilmar Cheese.
They also keep a steady flow of new products in front of consumers that address their current needs and interests both in terms of health and sustainability.
Another area of growing interest is nutrition.
More people have expressed an interest in plant-based dairy alternatives both for their perceived environmental footprint and nutrition. But instead of looking the other way, many major dairy brands are marrying plant-based products along with their traditional dairy offerings in their portfolios.
“While not turning their backs on traditional dairy products, companies like Dairy Farmers of America, HP Hood, Bel Group, Unilever, Saputo, Chobani and Danone North America are understanding that the market for plant-based yogurt, cheese and ice cream, and especially milk and coffee creamers, is growing rapidly and too important to ignore.”Dairy Processing by Pamela Accetta-Smith
Innovation and redirection
With the changing culture of promotion and marketing, dairy companies and organizations have worked hard to reach consumers.
A collective called Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin works to promote Wisconsin dairies and their products, specifically, but also generates a positive image for all dairies nationwide.
These dairy farmers used their own money to reach consumers more effectively when they felt television marketing was not cutting it. Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin then worked on two innovative campaigns to promote white and chocolate milk across the nation, as told in the Mid-West Farm Report.
They found that a shift to create attention grabbing campaigns on digital platforms fit the digital age better than those airing on television, where current technology now enables consumers to skip over commercials.
These digital campaigns for white and chocolate milk target and strive to connect with mothers and teens through digital channels.
Why were these demographics chosen?
Generally, mothers are responsible for household grocery buying decisions and teens are at a life stage where they are making more of their own decisions on food choices. Knowing how to relate to these respective groups boosts the advertising reach of the dairy industry.
This is a classic example of how niche marketing can have a bigger impact on sales than mass appeal.
Marketing aid programs
While national level dairy promotion and marketing has an industry-wide benefit, it shouldn’t distract from the many ways that local farms and other dairy businesses can work at a grassroots level. There are many outlets in which private companies can gain assistance for the development, production, marketing and distribution of their products.
The Dairy Business Innovation (DBI) Initiatives supports dairy businesses and helps them find and secure grants for unique or niche products. The focus of the program is to help dairy producers diversify, reduce risk and increase value, promote business development and encourage the use of regional milk production.
Much can also be learned from other farms and dairy businesses that have found unique niches on which to capitalize. Local checkoff programs or industry associations often have materials and resources to help promote on local and regional levels. These can be especially lucrative if you sell directly to consumers or have an agritourism element to your operation.
A changing world
Creative marketing campaigns need to be continually revamped as trends continuously change and the attention span for extra content (like advertisement) lowers.
It can be challenging to keep up with consumer trends and marketing programs. Fortunately, entities like Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin use funds not just to ensure promotions are current, but to also give back to the farmers.
Other organizations like the American Dairy Association are great advocates for products at various levels and make interaction interactive and fun. Not only will they attend events, but they can connect you with various supporters, ranging from local to A-list celebrities, to convey the message of dairy.
These creative marketing campaigns grab the attention of consumers and identify strategies that appeal to specific groups and can give you the biggest bang for the buck.
Making media work
An approach to creatively convey our audience starts with understanding the way marketing campaigns now spread in a modern, instantaneous “need it now” world.
There are two basic ways media can be used to help promote products and generate interest in the dairy industry. These methods are paid and earned.
The Mid-West Farm Report notes that paid media is the standard where placement is paid. Earned media is free and more effective as consumers perceive it as more trustworthy.
Digital targeting (which can be both paid and earned) content is channeled to an interested audience. Because it can inform, this strategy also has more success with consumers staying tuned instead of skipping it like a television commercial.
Success hinges on understanding how these ads grow and expand the reach and how the consumers view the information in front of them.