Episode 30: How Do You Get Consumers To See Dairy Differently?

Do consumers think that dairy is sustainable? Does this influence their purchasing of dairy products? What’s the checkoff doing about it?

Listen as MVP Dairy’s Director of Marketing and Communications Allison Ryan discusses how the checkoff is sharing the dairy farmer sustainability story with Heather Oldani, Group EVP, Head of Marketing Communications & Affairs for Dairy Management Inc. Allison and Heather will discuss how the “See Dairy Differently” campaign is changing how thought leaders think of dairy products and what the campaign will focus on promoting next.

Tune in to find out!

To learn more about the national dairy checkoff and your local dairy checkoffs, please visit www.usdairy.com.

Host & Guest:

  • Host: Allison Ryan, Director of Marketing and Communications, MVP Dairy
  • Heather Oldani, Group EVP, Head of Marketing Communications & Affairs for Dairy Management Inc.

Transcript (AI-generated, please ignore typos)

Allison Ryan  0:00 

Welcome to your Dairy Checkoff podcast where we discuss checkoff programming with industry experts and your dairy promotion staff both locally and nationally. I’m Allison Ryan, and I’m the director of marketing and communication for MVP dairy located in Salina, Ohio. And joining me today is Heather L. Donnie. She’s the head of communication, marketing and affair at DMI. We’re going to be discussing the seed dairy differently campaign that promotes dairy farmer sustainability to influential audiences. And Heather, before we dive into that, can you tell us a little bit more about your role at DMI? Sure, and

Heather Oldani  0:34 

thanks, Allison for having me today. I’ve been with DMI for just over six years. And in my current role, I oversee our marketing communications and affairs team, which is a long way of saying We are the team that has the privilege, I would say to take dairy story to market. And by that I mean taking dairy story to consumers, early parents specifically and young adults and teens, as well as then taking our story to those influential thought leaders that are influencing consumer beliefs and perceptions about dairy. So think about sustainability, NGOs, health professionals, pediatricians, etc. So we have a team of about 30, that works hard on your behalf every day, to make sure that we are building trust for dairy and dairy products, as well as then coordinating with our 16 state and regional marketing teams to make sure that we are scaling that story to consumers and thought leaders around the

Unknown Speaker  1:33 

country. That’s great. How long have you been there?

Heather Oldani  1:35 

I’ve been with DMI for a little over six years, I came from an agency background. And I also had kind of a similar role at McDonald’s us representing their story to consumers and thought leaders on their marketing team. That’s

Allison Ryan  1:51 

great. So you’ve seen a little bit of a different consumer look beyond what we’re doing here and our dairy community. So you know, there are so many topics that really come to mind when we’re talking about okay, what are we going to share with consumers? You know, we can talk animal care, we can talk dairy nutrition, food safety, what is it about sustainability that makes it such a hot button issue among consumers?

Heather Oldani  2:15 

Yeah, you know, it’s been interesting looking at the data over the years. And one thing that we do consistently at DMI is that we track consumer perceptions year over a year. And I would say, you know, to the question of do consumers care about sustainability? I would say, unequivocally yes, they do care about environmental sustainability. taking that one step further, they care about climate change, and water conservation. So if you think about the weather that we’ve all been experiencing over the last years, I think what’s making it come home for consumers is that they are experiencing it in their daily life. hottest summers on record, right, I live here in Chicago, it’s been the warmest spring or warmest February on record, here in Chicago. And I think, for consumers, once they start to experience those impacts of climate change personally, it continues to rise in terms of importance for them. We just saw latest consumer data poll that looked at what’s on top of mind concern for people here and around the world. And it was really interesting. Number one was war, right, given the the conflicts that we see happening around different parts of the globe, right behind that was water, water conservation. And then shortly thereafter, in fourth place, was climate change. And so they they do care, and it’s becoming an increasing concern for them. taste and nutrition still remain paramount when they’re looking to make their purchasing decisions, as well as cost. But they do have that factor in the back of their mind on what can I continue to do to be more sustainable in my own life?

Allison Ryan  3:49 

So you know, sustainability, you mentioned a couple of different key points in there, you know, climate change being one and, you know, it’s it can be such a broad conversation. And where do we, as a dairy community, you know, how do you pick your focus? And how do you know that’s going to resonate with consumers? Yeah,

Heather Oldani  4:09 

again, we always look at what the data is showing us. And I will say to your earlier question for what we see with consumers is that animal care, and taking care of the land and taking care of the farm are inextricably linked. So if we’re taking, if we’re showing stories of you all taking good care of your animals and good care for the land, that’s a plus win for for us in terms of raising that belief and trust with the consumer. So when we really look at the data that guides us, we also look at what thought leaders are talking about in this space to say what what are they advocating for or what are they speaking to media about in terms of importance when we think about this broad topic of environmental sustainability, and that tends to be reductions in methane. It tends to be reductions in GHG admissions overall, as well as water conservation. So we take those two datasets That’s when we say, here’s what the thought leader in the media community is talking about, that consumers may be seen and their social channels and their own media channels. And how do we then create that content that shows the progress that’s already happening today on dairy farms across the country, so that we can increase their belief. And then just, you know, I always say, consumers just want that reassurance that their favorite dairy foods are produced with care. And we have a great story to tell. And and we’ve seen time and time again, when we’re putting farmers front and center and you all sharing your story with a consumer or a thought leader audience, it truly does resonate. And we can see those perception scores increase. So

Allison Ryan  5:41 

as you know, we have a onsite Learning Center on our farm, and it is your 100%. Right people actually will come in and and essentially ask for permission to enjoy dairy, again, because of exactly what you just said, the greenhouse emissions and things that they hear about dairy. So, you know, absolutely. And, you know, when you’re looking at what kind of messaging needs to be crafted, you know, you mentioned all the great work that farmers already doing, how do you mix that with kind of that continuous improvement mindset that that we as farmers all have, you know, there’s a lot of things we’re already doing and you are sharing about, but what makes you pick specific messaging to make sure that it demonstrates that continuous improvement as well. No,

Heather Oldani  6:31 

I think the messages that we find that resonate the most, one of the things you know, is that a farmer is more than just a farmer, right? A farmer is a climatologist, right, because you’re looking at the weather, you’re evaluating a client, you know, a farmer is working closely with veterinarians and others, you know, your service providers to really look for the ways in which we can continue to improve. And I think that is the one message that we’ve said, consumers don’t expect perfection. What they do want to see is continuous progress. And as long as we are being able to say, here’s where we are today, with the practices that we’re using, whether that’s, you know, one of the things that we’ve that consumers have found surprising is the use of byproducts in an animal feed. Right. So taking, what would go to a landfill I on hauls citrus pulps, whatever it is that you are using locally. And putting that in with the animal feed and preventing it from going to landfill. That’s been a really solid and easily understood. I would say that as the other thing. Climate change can be really hard to understand in terms of the technologies and practices. But when we’re able to bring it down to something easily understood that creates that emotional connection that says that gives them that aha moment. That has been the power of our consumer messaging as well as our thought leader messaging. It is. Here’s the action that’s happening today. Here’s the proof of the progress. And here’s where we’re going as an industry together going forward

Allison Ryan  8:09 

kind of based off of the direction consumers are going and the questions they’re asking very consumer driven,

Heather Oldani  8:16 

correct? Yes, yeah, we get a lot of questions. We get a lot of data. And again, it’s it’s those key are they time and time again, what we hear from them is how are farmers taking conserving water? How are farmers? You know, what about this thing called cow farts? Cow burps that is something that we see a lot of and just even clarifying for them where enteric methane comes from. We actually did a Time Magazine partnership last fall or last summer, that was all about water conservation. And it performed extremely well. Time Magazine is something that actually surprised me that Gen Z is a favorite publication of Gen Z. They like to go in depth on certain topics that they have questions and concerns about. And so being able to work with them to showcase the ways in which farmers across the country and it’s such a regional issue, right? In terms of where you live in the country and the water conservation or water quality issues, but being able to show the depth and breadth of the practices that are happening on farms across the country, that was a really positive strong piece for us in the marketplace.

Allison Ryan  9:21 

And you know, that’s a good point. You know, what we’re doing in Ohio may not be top of mind for folks in in Texas, for example. So it sounds like you really craft your messaging to encompass a wide variety and a wide range meet everything. Yeah, and that’s where

Heather Oldani  9:41 

we really work hand in glove or hand in hand with our state and regional marketing and communications teams. They have the best understanding of what’s happening locally, and the farms and the stories that are you know, have stories of progress and dependent upon the concerns and questions of the consumers and their region. So we work with them. onto one elevate those stories of progress nationally to us in our national creative and execution. But they are then working to make sure that those stories are getting out to those consumers in those markets through digital and social channels. And so it’s a really nice partnership that we have to ensure that we’re touching upon the originality and localization and customization of the concept where we then elevate stories at that national level.

Allison Ryan  10:23 

So you mentioned Gen Z and Time magazine. So you know, we’re getting a little bit at a look at some at who your audience is, can you tell us a little bit more of who you’re targeting? And, you know, some of us may not know exactly who Gen Z, Gen Z community. So if you can dive into that a little bit more.

Heather Oldani  10:41 

Yeah. So we have for the sustainability stories, we have two kind of core audiences, I would say one is that sustainability thought leader. So think about those heads of sustainability and food service brands, or consumer brand companies, Nestle, Starbucks, etc, those people who are leading sustainability efforts where dairy is a big part of their menu in their supply chain. Think about academics and professors of sustainability, as well as then influential reporters and those heads of associations like World Wildlife Federation or Environmental Defense Fund. So we have a very core set of content and execution with those audiences. And then on the consumer side, we also work what we call those eco conscious, Gen Z and young millennials, in terms of Gen Z, they’re that that 18 to 34 range, we really see amongst 18 to 24. That’s where a lot of the skepticism exist in terms of what dairy as an industry is doing when it comes to environmental sustainability. So we really try to hone in on that audience specifically. And then with early parents, they trust the industry, implicitly, they just have a few questions that they want to get answered. So think about Mom, I’m wanting to make sure that the products, the dairy foods that she’s feeding her kids are produced in a way that is sustainable. So those tend to be the core audiences that we’re going after, and trying to reach them through either digital social media, as well as on the case of the thought leader side last year, we did run some high profile print ads, which I know MVP, dairy, thank you very much was a part of for our execution last year. And so that that included USA Today, Washington Post, we actually showed up at a very surprising place last fall, Wired Magazine, who would have thought that US dairy industry would be speaking about breakthrough technology in the form of manure and Wired Magazine, which is an unusual place for us to show up. But it is intended to, to give everybody a kind of a surprising way of thinking about inspiring them to think differently about dairy and our role in environmental sustainability.

Allison Ryan  12:59 

It was fun to be a part of the campaign last spring. And, you know, I remember some conversations back and forth on picking the right kind of image to make sure that it’s encouraging people to see dairy differently. You know, and in collectively, the dairy community has been talking about sustainability on their farms now for at least probably the last couple of decades. How is this campaign and the imagery that you’re that you’re striving to use? How is that different from from what has been done in the past? We always

Heather Oldani  13:32 

say, internally that, you know, how do we move consumers away from the traditional red barn cows and pasture right, you know, that there and that still is farming around the country in certain regions. And we should be proud to showcase that. We should also be proud to showcase how the industry and how farms continue to evolve and grow and innovate. And one of the things that we were very cognizant of and going into the CDRA differently campaign when we were thinking about the creative execution of it is what is that surprising? I did not anticipate that from us dairy or I did not anticipate that a dairy farm could look like that or I did not anticipate that there would be these practices happening across the dairy industry. So our creative look and feel is something that’s intended to stop people in their tracks with with bold visuals with clean whitespace but also to to your point that shows Wow, that’s a dairy farm. I didn’t really think about that right? I didn’t think a dairy farm could look like that. So it is really challenging. I would almost say stereotypes of what dairy farming looks like and consumers and thought leaders minds and showing them a surprising side of it that they had not

Allison Ryan  14:52 

expected for those that are listening that haven’t been able to see any of these ads I if I’m remembering right one of them actually be featured a pile of cow poop, right? So, um, you know, stopping them in their tracks, I’m sure. That might have been one that might have caught the average consumer a little bit off their tracks of why is their cow manure in my magazine? How the results and the response from some of these ads help have the results been?

Heather Oldani  15:26 

It has been extremely positive, I get it to your point that was the wired ad that you spoke of. And had you asked me two years ago, if we would be in a spot as an industry to be placing a full page ad in a high profile magazine about cow boob? I would have said, Well, no. But it has, you know, even just that tongue in cheek of speaking about cow manure as groundbreaking technology. People have appreciated the sense of humor, they’ve appreciated the surprising look and talking about you know, the other full page ad that we did with the Washington Post talked had just a beautiful image of a cow, you know, in looking at the camera like this, and it talked about Cow Power equaling horsepower. And people were like, Huh, that’s interesting. So it’s been positively received, I think, by the intended end audiences, as well as the industry, for standing tall. In some of these high profile publications for the work that we were all doing. We’ve seen a lot of them positive reaction with the digital content that we’ve put out through social channels. You know, I think the key average that we look at is, is it enticing people to click back, we always want to entice people to click back to learn more. And by that, I mean either clicking through to us dairy.com clicking through to another one of our state and regional sites to learn more. And we’ve seen time and time again, that the content is inspiring them to do exactly that. I want to say we’ve had over 200,000 clicks back to content that where they can learn more, and once they are going back to the websites, or they’re going to the other areas, you know, a media article, for example, they’re spending significant time on that site reading through the information. So that just shows us that there’s an interest in learning more. And if we have the right content, for them to learn more, they’re engaging with it in different ways.

Allison Ryan  17:22 

USA Today, Time Magazine, wired, these are not necessarily your traditional farmer magazines. In our industry, we all tend to like to amplify or support, what information is being put out how as dairy farmers, can we amplify or be part of this campaign? A

Heather Oldani  17:40 

couple things come to my mind, one, first and foremost, the biggest thing that I would encourage all dairy farmers to do is to find ways to tell your story locally and work with your state and regional teams to do that it is you know, yes, amplification of content that we put out there. But the biggest thing that we see time and time again, in the USA with your visitor center, is you all telling your story to local consumers, local media, local thought leaders, that’s the power that we need to scale the impact when we think about building dairies reputation and building trust and continuing to build that with consumers. I think on our side, when we have a strong piece of earned media content, for example, or THIS TIME magazine media partnership, or some of the things that the state and regions do locally, making sure that you all are aware of it, right. So that to your point you if you have a social channel, and you want to be able to amplify it, that is something that we’re looking to continue to increase our efforts working with our farmer relations teams on so that as something is earned, for example, I will say we had an article last year in GreenBiz. Again, another unsuspecting place for us dairy to be that was something that we amplified and made sure that I got additional scale and reach your point is well taken on how do we make sure that we’re working on to get that to all of you as dairy farmers so that if you want to share it, you have that ability to do so. So note taken for me in terms of activations for this year and working closely with our state and region teams to make sure that we are sharing those content articles with you so that you can all amplify those as well. You know, that’s

Allison Ryan  19:21 

really good to hear. Because I’ll be on the lookout for those. You know, this is still a relatively new campaign for for the dairy community. Where do you see the seed dairy differently campaign going in the future? And will it evolve beyond a lot of the print ads we’re seeing? Yeah,

Heather Oldani  19:40 

absolutely. I am really excited to see where we take it this year we’ve already seen we’re working towards new creative executions for this year. Related to telling dairies environmental sustainability story and featuring that in creative and fun ways. I would also say we’re looking In at this idea of seeing dairy differently from a nutrition on wellness standpoint, so a lot of work has gone in over the last year through research to look at how dare what is dairies role and modern health and wellness areas that consumers care about. So gut health, cognition, graceful aging, as we call it. And there’s a lot of great science out there that shows dairies role in some of these modern wellness territories where consumers are wanting to explore. And so one of the ideas that we’ve kicked around because when we came up with the dairy differently, I was very keen on making sure that it was a concept that could extend beyond environment sustainability. So how do I get a consumer or a thought leader to think about dairy differently in the context of its ability to for gut health, right, there’s a there’s a myth out there that dairy causes gut inflammation, or it causes digestive issues when in reality, this science shows that it actually benefits gut health. So can we take C dairy differently and have inspire consumers and others to think about dairy in a different light when it comes to a food that they could consume, to benefit their, their health and wellness long term. So that is something that we’re exploring this year in terms of what is that nutritional wellness angle to see very differently. So more to come on that. And then I think continuing to work with our state and regional teams to identify maybe some high profile ways that we could execute care differently together, either experiential and or other activations, I would say, see very differently will come to life at GreenBiz verge, which is a big sustainability conference each year held out in California, we had an activation last year, a bigger booth presence. And I will say, in lines, we’re out the door, we actually brought a couple of dairy farmers to talk to people at GreenBiz, verge. And I felt bad because the lines were really long to talk to the dairy farmers that we brought. So more to come on that. But again, it’s it’s showing up in those unexpected places where people don’t expect dairy to be, and then having a conversation and being able to share the work that’s happening on farms across the country.

Allison Ryan  22:14 

I look forward to watching all this unfold. And I really hope to see continued success with that campaign. But before we wrap up, Heather, is there anything more that you’d like to share that you want to just ensure that our listeners, our dairy farmer listeners today, make sure they hear? Yeah,

Heather Oldani  22:34 

you know, I would also highlight what we have seen very differently. That’s been a great execution for us. Another campaign that I would want to highlight because it’s been so successful, is we actually last fall, it targeted those eco conscious Gen Z consumers with a campaign called a farmer’s more than a farmer. And that was branded under the undeniably dairy logo, it showed up in streaming Hulu, so streaming platforms, as well as digital channels. And we had a media partnership with Vox, which is a media outlet that’s very popular with younger audiences. And we just got the results back from that it was essentially three different executions that featured a dairy farm and farmers out in California, but talked about water conservation, recycling water up to four times, on average on the majority of dairy farms across the country. It talked about cow feed and nutrition and being able to take care of the cows and ensure that they’re well fed. And it also highlighted different technology and practices. In this case, there was a solar field panel that is enabling us to continue to be find new ways of energy for to power dairy farms. And those simple executions. It was phenomenal to see that amongst consumers who saw the creative, their their perceptions of dairy increased across a number of different metrics by five to 11 points. So it just shows again, taking a simple story, making sure that we put farmers front and center in the creative to tell your story really, truly works. And it was so successful that we’re looking at how do we run that campaign again next month for Earth Month. So that’ll be an exciting execution. I will also say stay tuned. We have a brand new partnership, the creative storytelling project that we were launching with milk pep in April, but that will feature prominent celebrity talent. And we’ve had that celebrity talent go visit a dairy farm for a week in New York. And so she learned all about dairy farming and sustainability and animal and cow care. She got to visit processing plant, etc. So that’s going to be a really fun five part Docu series that we’ll be launching next month, time to Earth Day to really engage consumers in the conversation and do so in a way that’s fun for them as well. And then I would just continue to hi I know sustainability He’s telling dairy story, it is not an either or between health and wellness or environment continues to be a prime focus working with cultural influencers, social and digital channels. And again, we work, we could not do it without our state and regional partners. So lots of exciting things planned across the air, both nationally and locally and look forward to sharing the results with all of you.

Allison Ryan  25:22 

Hi, there. I actually do have one more last comment or question for you. And it’s, it’s really just based on you mentioned the social influencers, and you mentioned all the great work you guys are doing and of course, how that your will be working on on getting information for dairy farmers to amplify, as we see so many trends change, and you guys spend so much time in crafting, you know the right strategies and messaging for people. There are several dairy farmers that are already online on social media, where might we find the latest resources to make sure that our messaging aligns with what you guys are putting out salutely. So

Heather Oldani  26:05 

I would encourage every dairy farmer to reach out to your state and regional marketing team. The reason being is that we are working closely together to we at the national side will produce what we call our our cheat sheets or our resource sheets every April, as well as throughout the year that says here’s messaging that has been tested with consumers, here’s content assets, that everyone can be able to utilize if you if you need those assets and worked hand in hand. I know the state and regional teams also have their messages that they’ve been customized to their consumers locally. So I think the first step is always reach out to your state and regional team and they’ll be able to then direct every farmer to either the localized content resources that exist and or the national resources that could be utilized to Well, thank

Allison Ryan  26:54 

you, Heather, so much for the conversation today. It’s been really interesting to hear about your direction with the seed dairy differently campaign. It’s always interesting to hear what checkoff is doing to tell consumers about the great work that we’ve got going on on our farms. And so in closing, I just want to say thank you for joining us again, and to all the farmers listening today. Thank you guys for tuning in. And of course if you want to hear more about various issues affecting the dairy community, so be sure to subscribe to this podcast on your favorite platform including Stitcher, Spotify or iTunes. And of course, check out our website the Dairy Checkoff podcast.com for future episodes. Until next time, have a great day.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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