WMMB's 'Real Deal' directed to consumers

Ray Mueller

Green Bay – To address consumer beliefs and uncertainties about dairy products and nutrition that are based on inaccurate and misleading claims, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board is introducing a new educational effort mainly through the social media that are popular with the millennial population group that numbers about 81 million in the country.

Despite decreases from the top two states, milk production increased across the nation in May.

Titled “The Real Deal with Dairy,” this new effort was described by Brenda Murphy, the WMMB's new director for producer communications and programs at the 2016 regional conference for county dairy promotion group representatives.

Murphy cited concerns identified by WMMB directors for the revised approach, which is also being introduced to the activities being carried out by the county dairy promotion groups. One of them is a “Consumer Trust Initiative” category that is being added to the list of choices for which the groups compete annually for extra funding based on the quality of local promotions.

Promotion rationale

“The Real Deal” venture is is designed to instill pride in quality of dairy products and to inspire consumers learn more about them, Murphy said. Because many users of social media are averse to sponsored advertising messages, it's necessary to provide honest and direct information in order to negate “incorrect and harmful” information that they've been exposed to.

They'd be presented with valid data based on scientific research from universities, the Extension Service, or even sources in Canada and England, Murphy indicated. She said the idea is supported by numerous national, regional and state public and private entities.

Two challenges exist in trying to reach the millennials on their mobile units and tablets, Murphy acknowledged. She explained the WMMB or other presenters of information need to find something that consumers will respond to and that there are groups within the millennials that need to be targeted.

One approach will be to post “key messages” on store shelves. She said one of them will be that there are significant differences between milk from dairy cows and the plant-based products that are referred to as “milk.”

Existing challenges

For instance, Murphy pointed to the profound difference, including a nine to one ratio on protein, in nutrition for milk from dairy cows compared to “almond milk” in the commercial market. Disagreeing with some members of the audience here, she said there is not likely to be any benefit in arguing against the legality of using “milk” in connection with liquid derived from almonds, coconuts or other nuts because consumers are already familiar with the term.

“Another difficult topic” pertains to genetically modified organisms because of lack of understanding that contributes to scares, Murphy continued. She added “the truth” needs to be conveyed on claims about antibiotics and hormones in milk and that differences exist between conventional and organic milk.

Social media themes

Other items that will be addressed are on-farm treatment of animals and the use of production tools and technologies, Murphy said. Dairy farmers need to “join the conversation” in the dairy blogs that are serving as an information source for many people.

Feature articles provided by experts will be presented in the social media, an “Ask the Farmer” tool will be employed and attention will be given to how many dairy farms are a family enterprise, Murphy said.

On the latter point, she showed a “Tribute to American's Dairyland” video featuring the Endres family on Berryridge Farms near Waunakee – a video with some 10,000 views so far on YouTube. As a followup to the video, in-depth information is needed to supplement the general points presented in it, she said.

Murphy also mentioned 360 degree videos without sound, which can be set in the dairy counter in supermarkets, as another medium. She noted 89 percent of videos are watched without sound. A video taken inside a free-stall barn is newly available and arrangements can be made for local presentations.

A redesigned AmericasDairyland.com website is also on the horizon, Murphy reported. She said one goal is to make it more responsive.