Dairy Checkoff marketing efforts tailored for COVID-19

Suzanne Fanning
Senior Vice President for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Chief Marketing Officer for Wisconsin Cheese
Suzanne Fanning, Senior Vice President for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Chief Marketing Officer for Wisconsin Cheese

Hard-working dairy farmers need to be in their barns and fields during this COVID-19 crisis, so Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin (DFW)—funded by your dairy checkoff—rapidly ramped up efforts to keep the milk moving and pivoted tactics to increase consumers’ appetites for Wisconsin dairy during quarantine. The following are some of our results to-date: 

Advertising - We developed a “Here For You” ad to air on television and radio across the state highlighting that Wisconsin’s dairy farmers are hard at work providing nutritious dairy for families across the country. We also utilized milk ads to communicate dairy’s good, wholesome nutrition. Commercials will continue to run in premiere timeslots, like during the Today Show, because when other companies were not ready to pivot to appropriate messaging and abandoned their advertising, we were able to get incredible media deals. 

We’ve seen a 740% increase in post engagement on our America’s Dairyland Facebook page since the beginning of the campaign because consumers care about our farmers and want to help. Several Wisconsin foodservice partners including Rocky Rococo, Toppers and Cousins picked up our campaign, and even the Green Bay Packers tweeted about supporting our dairy farmers.  

Digital content and online shopping - When the world changed and gatherings and celebrations were cancelled, we revamped our digital content focusing on topics like easy dinner ideas and creating the perfect Wisconsin cheeseboard using pantry items. Our data showed that consumers were looking for comfort foods, so we are sharing recipes using cheese and dairy ingredients via Facebook Live videos and on “The Cheese Life” blog. As a result, we’ve seen our audience skyrocket. 

Seeing people inspired to cook, we put together a directory of Wisconsin cheese companies that offer online shopping so consumers can enjoy the world’s best cheese in the comfort of their home and have award-winning cheeses delivered straight to their door. Since March 27 we’ve had over 47,000-page views of WisconsinCheese.com/order resulting in over 16,600 online store visits. 

Nationwide ambassadors - Over the past 24 months, we’ve been building an army of Wisconsin Cheese fans across the nation. Our ambassador program, called Cheeselandia, yielded in-home Wisconsin Cheese events hosted by fans in almost all 50 states. In this new era, we took the cheese celebrations online. Sartori sponsored our first virtual event and sen — at no cost to us — samples of cheese to participants in 26 states nationwide. 

The Cheeselandians learned about Wisconsin cheese from a Master Cheesemaker, cheesemonger and chat room discussions, and blanketed social media with endorsements for Wisconsin cheese on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Because of the huge success of this program, we plan to continue doing these online events sponsored by cheese companies even after quarantine to drive conversations about Wisconsin, our cheeses and our dairy farmers.  

Public relations - Over the past three years our public relations efforts have yielded $20-$30 million per year. That’s a 50:1 return on investment. Our farmers, cheesemakers and/or products have been featured on the Kelley Clarkson Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers, Fox and Friends, Today Show, in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and just this week on Forbes.com. In addition, we are now working to publicize ways Wisconsin’s dairy industry is coming together to help those in need. Milk is one of the most requested food items at food banks, but often the least donated because of its perishable nature.

Through our partnership with DATCP, the Hunger Task Force will purchase $1 million of milk through the Dairy Recovery Program, and numerous other processors have lined up to help support those in need in the coming weeks. These combined efforts will help keep the milk moving in Wisconsin.