"For the Love of Cheese" campaign generates social media frenzy

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin says their "For the Love of Cheese" Valentine's Day campaign was a huge success on social media.

Instead of chocolate for Valentine's Day, many chose instead to treat their loved one to cheese – the "universal love language of 2021."

Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin is calling its "For the Love of Cheese" promotion campaign  a success after reaching thousands of people and earning the national spotlight on social media. More than 20,000 people in all 50 states plus Washington, DC nominated a loved one to receive a free heart-shaped box of Wisconsin specialty cheeses, generating 135,000 page views.

One nomination even requested a box that could be presented during a marriage proposal.

The boxes were also available for purchase for those who didn't want to wait, with many varieties of choices ranging from $23-85 and some offering extras, like caramels and sausages.

"These coveted boxes simultaneously created a newsworthy campaign giveaway, capturing the attention of cheese lovers across the country," said Suzanne Fanning, CMO of Wisconsin Cheese and senior vice president at DFW. "Each limited-edition heart box valued at over $100 included a selection of five specialty Wisconsin cheeses, crafted by multi-generation cheesemakers including Master Cheesemakers, and sponsored by the experts at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin."

Fanning said the campaign reached out to as many media organizations as possible. The campaign ended up on The Drew Barrymore Show, whose host is a "self-proclaimed cheese lover." This helped launch the campaign into a national spotlight as Barrymore and co-host Ross Matthews opened boxes on-air.

"We knew Drew was a self-proclaimed cheese lover and specifically pitched it for her "Drew's News" spotlight that concludes every show. Our stars aligned! Producers loved our campaign and agreed to have both Drew and her co-pilot host, Ross Matthews, reveal the heart cheese boxes on-air," Fanning said. "Wisconsin Cheese jumped into overdrive, overnighted personalized boxes to the set, and the segment was beyond our wildest dreams."

Drew Barrymore features Wisconsin Cheese on her show.

"I would prefer cheese to a diamond any day," Barrymore said on the show, with Matthews quipping, "If someone gave this to me for Valentine's Day, they wouldn't find themselves prov-alone."

The campaign was also featured on AllRecipes, Today.com, Forbes and other national websites.

"For the Love of Cheese" also earned top marks from PRNEWS Group, a professional development organization for public relations and corporate communications professionals. Wisconsin Cheese took a top spot for PRNEWS' Valentine's Day campaign feature, earning an A grade. The headlining image used for the article also featured a heart-shaped box of Wisconsin cheese.

"Wisconsin Cheese, the marketing arm for The Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, created its own version featuring an incredible bounty for cheese enthusiasts," said an article excerpt. "Love conquers all, and who doesn’t love cheese? This campaign delivered on everything it promised."

Fanning said Wisconsin Cheese also earned over a thousand new followers on Facebook and Instagram during the campaign. 

"The goal of this campaign was to drive awareness and affinity for Wisconsin Cheese," Fanning said. "After enduring a stinky 2020, Wisconsin Cheese felt there was no cheddar time to share some gouda news and spread happiness ahead of Valentine’s Day. They thought beyond traditional symbols of romance for a more inclusive holiday that everyone could enjoy."

Wisconsin Cheese also worked with the state's restaurants and other food service companies to promote their products, especially on National Pizza Day Feb. 9. Fanning said they worked with Lou Malnati's, Rocky's, Toppers and other pizza places to promote Wisconsin cheese. They even gave the restaurants artwork featuring heart-shaped pizzas.

"These are great opportunities to shine a spotlight on these restaurants that feature and promote Wisconsin Cheese as part of their pizza recipes," Fa said.