Milk matters: Making California dairy part of modern family life
By Stan Andre
In late 2012, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) marked a milestone in our marketing efforts for California dairy – the fifth anniversary of the Real California Milk (RCM) seal. Like the cheese seal before it, this certification mark has opened doors significantly to new markets for California dairy products made with 100% milk from our California dairy families, families that continue to struggle in this difficult economy.
The reality of today’s dairy industry and the challenges farmers face are being felt nationwide, but especially in the No. 1 dairy state, where we are responsible for 21% of the nation’s milk supply. And now, more than any other time, it is essential to have aggressive and effective dairy marketing efforts not just to maintain the markets we have but to identify and build the markets of tomorrow. That means looking outside our comfort zone and thinking outside the carton and jug.
California has a much-deserved reputation for innovation in many areas, including the way we promote dairy. When you make as much milk as we do, you have to get really creative at taking it to market. Moving from a state to a national and now to an international marketing organization has been critical. The RCM seal was part of a strategy to help take us there. Once we determined that future growth for California meant not just cheese, which uses almost half of our milk supply, but also manufactured dairy products – the direction was clear.
Today more than 116 processors are using the seals on hundreds of products; the cheese seal, which was developed in 1984, and now the milk seal are recognized icons representing the California dairy products; and we are, through necessity, actively marketing not just in the United States but in Mexico and 11 Asian countries.
Seals recognized dairy symbols
Consumers don’t buy what they don’t know about or what they can’t find in the store. We’ve spent years developing a national and international sales network to build relationships with retailers and foodservice buyers to source California dairy and execute our programs globally. The seals have become recognized symbols of dairy made with 100% California milk, identifiable by consumers because of a cutting edge approach to dairy promotion that is putting these products in front of consumers where they live, work and play.
It’s no secret that today’s marketplace is a new frontier. Competition for food dollars is at an all-time high at the same time that competition for consumer attention is tighter than ever. With so many ways to receive information, cutting through the clutter with a clear marketing message is more difficult and even more critical. The modern consumer doesn’t want to be marketed to she wants to build a relationship with the brands she buys. That means advertising and promotional activities must be engaging, entertaining and share-worthy.
Consumers must ‘experience’ it
This is another area of innovation – creating advertising that builds an affinity with your product (for us, that means not just dairy but dairy from our state) and delivering it to consumers in a way that allows them to interact with and “experience” it. For our target dairy consumer, the women age 25-54 who are the primary dairy shoppers, that means television where they are still spending 47% of their time as well as the other screens they are using, often at once. This multiscreen mom is the new target, and we need to be where she is spending her time.
Advertisers don’t have the captive audience they used to. Successful advertising today is advertising that people stop what they’re doing and choose to watch, and really successful advertising is advertising they truly connect with and can interact with and talk about and share. Digital media or advertising online keeps that conversation going. Banner ads, rich media or video ads, even augmented reality ads spread the message across hundreds of websites that consumers visit exposing the California milk and cheese seals and dairy message millions of times and driving traffic to the realcaliforniamilk.com website and our Facebook page where deeper conversations about California dairy products continue.
The world of food marketing
You may ask what online games, playful apps and digital farming have to do with effective dairy marketing. The answer is: everything. Just as the expression says, “If you want to catch fish, fish where the fish are,” so goes the world of food marketing today. That means offering games, apps, social media tools and more to consumers and their families, giving them ways to interact with you in a non-commercial way on their digital devices, and making sure everything you create can be shared with their friends and family members. As the advertising says, making California dairy part of their families.
Yes, consumers still want coupons, they want to sample, they look for cooking tips and recipes but they also want experiences. Diving into this new world makes a category like dairy – which can be considered a boring staple – modern, current and relevant. And that is the ultimate prize for marketers and California dairy producers who want to continue to grow – being part of the world our consumers live in today so we’ll be part of their purchase decisions in the future.
■ Stan Andre is the chief executive officer of the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), one of the largest commodity boards in the United States. The CMAB executes advertising, public relations, research and retail and foodservice promotional programs on behalf of California dairy products, including Real California Milk and Real California Cheese. For more information on California dairy products, visit RealCalifornia Milk.com.