Talking Points
by Pamela Accetta Smith
Senior Editor

Some of the dairy industry’s marketing professionals offer their views on what keeps their niche ahead of the game.
Marketing can make or break a product.
It’s true — the best food or beverage in the world might not get off the ground without the proper positioning.
Dairy Field recently spoke with these members of processors’ marketing teams who are utilizing several marketing tools to their best advantage:
Dave Holdsworth, vice president of sales and marketing, Old Home Foods Inc., St. Paul, Minn.
Kathy Holstad, marketing director, Tillamook County Creamery Association, Tillamook, Ore.
Jim Hayhurst, advertising manager, Blue Bell Creameries LP, Brenham, Texas.
Q: What have been your most successful marketing strategies or campaigns over the years?
Holdsworth: Several years ago, we launched a new brand positioning, articulated with our tagline: “For the way you live.” This platform reinforces the longevity and heritage of Old Home Foods as a care-giving brand in family lives. Our company, for more than 80 years, has built a foundation around remaining relevant with our consumers by providing products that fit their needs and lifestyles — products that moms can be sure their families will love. Our campaign has been consistent throughout the years and has incorporating prominent package visuals while contemporizing the brand with bold/bright colors.
Holstad: Our most successful marketing strategy has been to focus on quality, consistency and taste in everything we do. We focus most of our marketing efforts on cheddar cheese, which is our best-selling product line, and highlight attributes of being naturally aged and made with high-quality milk from cows not treated with the growth hormone rBST. As we grow as a brand, we will not sacrifice any of these attributes. We have also focused on the fact that we are a farmer-owned and operated cooperative committed to sustaining family farms, and doing good things in the communities in which we sell our cheese. All of our marketing and PR events are focus on family, food and community.
If we try to stray from what Tillamook stands for, we risk alienating our core customers. This has taught us to remain true to the core values outlined above.
Hayhurst: Years ago, our management believed that being located out in the country, so far away from the big markets, might be a disadvantage to Blue Bell. However, our Houston-based ad agency at the time — the Metzdorf Agency, and specifically their creative adman, the late Lyle Metzdorf — saw it as an advantage. Lyle crafted an ad campaign that made being located in the beautiful countryside with rolling hills, flagrant wildflowers and happy cows an advantage, thus our “Fresh from the Little Creamery” campaign was born. “The Little Creamery” theme allowed us to promote “the best ice cream in the country” made with the freshest ingredients by hard-working folks doing business the old fashioned way, via nostalgic down-home commercials. This continues to be our strategy today.
I wouldn’t say anything has been unsuccessful, but our biggest challenge is going into a new market where we have little or no brand recognition. For years, most of our expansion was in southern states where folks, due to the oil industry, tend to move back and forth and because of their familiarity with our product, gave us a big reception.
Q: What is your company currently doing to gain share of stomach?
Holdsworth: Our drive-time radio and outdoor billboard campaign has been an extremely successful combination for us. Also, we have strong ties with our retailer partners to drive in-store sampling and ongoing coupon activity. We have also benefited from our community involvement; with our strong St. Paul roots we’ve generated awareness with sponsorships of the VISA Championships (the national championships of USA Gymnastics), St. Paul Saints baseball and other local promotions.
Holstad: We hired a new advertising agency, Leopold Ketel, late last year and have just launched two new ad campaigns — one that focuses on our general consumer in magazine print ads and the other that focuses on our gourmet consumers in gourmet-type magazines. We are focusing on core attributes that our loyal consumers know about us, which we want to share with consumers who don’t know about us. Those attributes are mainly that Tillamook Cheese has been farmer owned since 1909, Tillamook cheddar is aged naturally and is made from the highest-quality milk from cows not treated with artificial growth hormones. We also sponsor many community events such food drives, neighborhood rejuvenation efforts and fun family event days, as well as many other product donations for events evolving around family and health. And we sponsor a national macaroni and cheese recipe contest, which draws hundreds of entries each year, which is entering its third year.
Hayhurst: Since we’re a regional company with markets in parts of just 17 states, one of the avenues to gain share is opening new markets. This year we opened Louisville and surrounding markets in the state of Kentucky, some with sales areas which extend into Indiana.
Q: What does your company do to go above and beyond in terms of marketing its products?
Holdsworth: We have an unparalleled commitment to product quality and integrity. Our cottage cheese was recently awarded the first-ever Best in the Nation award in the 2007 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. We are also in the process of introducing a new product that outperformed our competition in a taste test. As a premium dairy company, it is essential that we continue to evolve to meet the needs of our consumers.
Holstad: We love to have direct contact with our consumers and really develop a relationship. We do this by providing personal quick responses to our consumers through our customer service department, through the events we participate in that Tillamook employees are a part of and by participating in as many events as possible that support our markets. Our consumers are very loyal to Tillamook and we want them to know that we care about what is important to them.
Hayhurst: Since the marketing process includes distribution, one of the key things we do to insure product freshness is direct store delivery. This means that no one but Blue Bell employees handle the ice cream from the time it is made until it is placed in the grocer’s freezer. This is an expensive process, but is a key competitive advantage for us, and a genuine benefit to the consumer.
Q: Where do you see dairy marketing strategies going in the future?
Holdsworth: I definitely feel that we will see a continued shift toward stronger marketing to women initiatives, focusing on the health benefits of dairy.  
Holstad: I think innovation of convenience for consumers will continue to grow, as well as health concerns — specifically weight and ingredients in our foods. Over the past few years, we have received increased numbers of questions related specifically to milk from cows treated with rBST, and we believe the number of these kinds of questions will continue to increase.
Hayhurst: Due to evolving competitive pressure in the grocery industry, it is more important now than ever for products to have a very strong brand connection with the consumer. All advertising, promotional activities and Internet initiatives must reinforce the brand and product benefits.