For more than 20 years, Edelman has been working with Dairy Management to tell the story of the American dairy industry. Eight years ago, the 42,000 American dairy farmers founded the Innovation Center, an organization that brings together all members of the dairy community – from farmers to processors and dairy brands and retailers – to meet the changing needs of consumers, address questions about products and production practices and to find new uses for milk and other dairy products.
I have been privileged to work with this client for many years. In that time, I have come to know the dairy farmers as family business owners, operating their farms in the third or fourth generation. They are incredibly hard workers, up before dawn to make sure the cows are cared for on their way to the milking parlors. They are deeply conscious of global affairs, from NAFTA to export opportunities to China. They are stewards of the land, seeking to recycle cow manure into fuel for the farm, reusing water as often as five times by implementing advanced recycling techniques. And they are larger-than-life characters. One of my favorites is Paul Rovey from Arizona, who breeds Watusis cattle for shows while milking 2,000 Jersey dairy cows.
Today, we launched the Undeniably Dairy campaign to reintroduce America to dairy, connecting consumers with these farmers, who are dedicated to delivering a quality product. This is the industry’s first category campaign on responsible production, sustainable nutrition and economic value. It explains the economic contribution of the dairy business, which creates 17 jobs for every $1 million in retail sales. It also covers the environmental progress made on farms in the past decade and that continues, with 65 percent reduction in water use and a 63 percent drop in carbon output. The campaign encompasses all dairy products, from fresh milk to cheese, ice cream, yogurt and whey. The power of the campaign is the ability to transcend individual organizations, companies and products. Case in point, the Undeniably Dairy logo can be used by the farmers, the food processors and retailers.
This is the first major initiative for Barbara O’Brien, who was named president last July. I spoke with her last week about the campaign. “This is an iconic American industry,” she said. “Dairy farmers are your quintessential local businesspeople. They are present in every one of the 50 states. Most of America’s city dwellers are within 100 miles of a dairy farm. We want to build trust in our industry by explaining how our farmers do their jobs every day.” This is also a bold declaration for an industry that continues to expand into global markets. O’Brien was in Singapore and China two weeks ago with former Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, now chair of the U.S. Dairy Export Council, calling on potential customers in the food sector. “We are excited about the global marketplace opportunity,” she noted. “We have built a strong export business in cheese to Mexico, for example, working with quick-serve restaurants and supermarkets.”
The campaign also features content that will engage consumers with the surprisingly fun side of dairy and with the undeniable enjoyment of their favorite dairy food and beverages. There are custom videos for broadcast and social (my favorite is the dad crumbling parmesan cheese over his kids’ heads onto their spaghetti), as well as Moo Memes for social, starring dairy cows from local farms. We have engaged influencers such as chef Laura Vitale. We are doing integrations on the Cooking Channel and Food Network, plus a Food Network Snapchat Discover takeover. Commercials began to run on digital channels yesterday, moving onto TV, specifically, the Food Network and Cooking Channel in June as part of an industry celebration of National Dairy Month.
We are the DMI’s lead agency for paid, owned and earned. This is the first time in our history that we have been entrusted with the responsibility of bringing together a fully integrated campaign at this scale, from creative and content production through distribution across paid, owned and earned. I want to thank DMI for their belief in our ability to deliver on our communications marketing promise. The future of the dairy industry depends on its building trusted relationships with all its stakeholders, beginning with consumers but including retailers, processors, restaurants, regulators and NGOs. The peer-to-peer communications model built for this campaign is designed to achieve just that objective.
Richard Edelman is president and CEO.