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Promotions make a difference; labels are key to consumption

Ashley Messing-Kennedy Published on 11 June 2014

All it takes is a walk through the grocery store, and you will begin to realize how important marketing is today. In each food product, there are distinct differences between labels, even when the product is something as basic as a gallon of milk.

We all remember the “got milk?” campaign and have begun to see commercials and materials for the new “Milk Life” campaign. But what about those local campaigns we see in our home state or regions? We might be surprised about the influence they currently have on consumer choices and the influence they could have in the future.

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In April 2014, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan began rolling out its new campaign entitled “Milk Means More.” The re-branding combined all of the other specialty campaigns into one that would demonstrate the wide variety of different consumers and the versatility from the producer end. The beginning of the campaign includes a new logo of a blue milk drop with cursive writing saying “Milk Means More.”

In addition, the dairy industry and the Michigan Agriculture Council have begun partnering with the “Pure Michigan” travel campaigns. There are several commercials featuring Michigan dairy producers and stores where locally produced milk can be purchased. In stores, the gallons of milk with 100 percent Michigan-produced milk feature the “Pure Michigan” logo on the label.

Another regional campaign that is popular is “Real California Milk” and “Real California Cheese.” The California Milk Advisory Board oversees these campaigns, and often the Real California Cheese seal can be seen across the country.

Increasing the awareness of California-produced dairy products is the goal, and they also have a hard-working international division working in Mexico and 11 Asian countries. The CMAB’s current campaign is “Make Us a Part of Your Family,” where the integral role dairy products play in a family’s daily life is highlighted.

Michael Freeman, vice president of advertising for the California Milk Advisory Board, says, “We measure the campaign with a national ongoing consumer tracking study.” The study is ongoing, and thus far the awareness of the seals is continually increasing. The current “Make Us a Part of Your Family” continues to score well during consumer tracking.

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The population to which we are marketing dairy products has changed drastically according to Dr. John Stanton, food marketing professor at Saint Joseph’s University. We are moving from a world of families as the largest percentage of households to single-person households, Stanton says. When making buying decisions, parents today tend to be less demanding than previous generations, and children are now the drivers in decision-making.

The demographic of milk consumers have changed drastically, but in the U.S., milk is still being sold like it was in the 1950s. Other food products have trended toward smaller packaging, but milk remains a gallon. Stanton’s student group finished up a research project about the value of milk labeling. They found that any claim on a label will make consumers four times more likely to purchase.

Stanton continues, “Labels are just sitting in a store, and 100 percent of consumers see it. People who then buy your product see it each time they open their refrigerator.”

As an industry, we have made strides to improve our marketing and making sure our product can compete with different competitors. When you think about the many attributes milk has versus any other beverage, we should have people lining up down the street to buy a gallon. But we do not; milk consumption in this country declines steadily each year. That means we still have work to do.

Stanton points out that billboards and commercials do help bring awareness of dairy products to consumers, but they need to say something important to consumers.

“[Billboards] need to say something like ‘all essential nutrients, drink more milk.’ Not just ‘drink milk.’ You need to compel your consumer to look at the signs.”

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He also counters that for the minimal or no additional cost to change a label and add a claim such as “nine essential nutrients” or “locally produced,” the benefit is clear to traditional methods.

As an industry, dairy producers do a phenomenal job of caring for their cows, land and employees. They are producing more milk with the same or fewer resources. They are providing consumers with the most wholesome product on the planet: milk.

But we need to be better marketers. We need to compel our consumers to pick up that gallon of milk in the grocery store instead of the soda. We need to take advantage of the inexpensive but high-impact duty of the label.

There are states and regions out there doing it such as the Real California Milk and Cheese, Pure Michigan and Milk Means More campaigns. With the impact that an added label claim has, we should be using it to our advantage. Other dairy substitutes and beverages have been using it for years, and it’s about time we start taking our consumers back. PD

ashley messing

Ashley Messing-Kennedy
Freelance writer and dairy producer
Bad Axe, Michigan

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