PRODUCER COMMUNICATIONS: CONNECTING ON EMOTIONS . . . AND FACTS
When Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products Company, Arden Hills, Minn., developed Cow's Match' milk replacer, research results quickly signaled that it would change the future of calf management and heifer productivity.
The Cow's Match intensive feeding and management system produces calves that are not only larger in size at weaning, but, more importantly, calves that keep and add to that extra size beyond weaning. Ultimately, dairy producers benefit not only from larger calves, but also bigger, younger, more productive first-calf heifers.
Cow's Match is the latest in a series of advancements by the company that developed the first calf milk replacer nearly 50 years ago and has gained a reputation as the leader in young animal nutrition. In light of Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products' track record, this new product and its trial results grabbed the attention of industry experts. Now, the country's 100,000-plus dairy producers and calf raisers needed to hear news of the product which could transform their herd efficiency.
Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products first implemented an initial launch of Cow's Match in the fall of 2001, opening distribution channels and educating the sales force. It also alerted potential customers with limited print advertising and held several producer focus groups to monitor target market responses and perceptions before continuing with a more expansive marketing blitz.
The findings from those focus groups led Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products toward a refined strategy. Along with its marketing agency, Charleston|Orwig, Inc., Hartland, Wis., Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products recognized the need to revamp the Cow's Match marketing approach. Although focus group participants trusted Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products and its track record, they needed more encouragement before entrusting their young calves - their babies - to a new management system.
Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products and Charleston|Orwig developed an integrated marketing campaign that incorporated the focus group findings. The new approach would address potential producer skepticism by addressing both the emotional and analytical sides of producers.
´´Based on the premise that consumers buy on emotion and justify the purchase with facts, the agency's strategic direction relied on two approaches: parenting and performance. The parenting approach compared calf-raising to how parents care for their children and included messages that emphasize producers should do "what's best" for their calves.
The performance approach promoted the advantages of bigger calves, faster weaning and earlier breeding. Testimonials of stronger, healthier calves, visual demonstrations of calves' strength and research comparisons supported the premise that Cow's Match is in a class by itself.
Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products and Charleston|Orwig felt it was essential to combine the two approaches - parenting and performance - into one cohesive concept. They accomplished the objective with a "pride of ownership" campaign, bridged with two recurring elements: a scrapbook template, featuring a photograph of a side-by-side comparison of a Cow's Match calf and a traditionally fed calf, plus the tagline, "Yep. That's a Cow's Match Calf."
"The pride of ownership concept resonated with our target audience," according to Bezdicek. "The scrapbook allowed us to convey that concept, made it look like it came from a producer and opened the door to many creative executions."
Full-page, four-color print ads provide the basis of the campaign's execution. The ads spotlight the photograph and highlight research results comparing Cow's Match calves with calves raised on traditional feeding methods. To underscore the results, the ads also feature the campaign tagline, "Yep. That's a Cow's Match Calf," in the scrapbook-style format.
The central ad campaign is complemented by a "want ad" series that utilizes a unique communications vehicle to increase message frequency, reach the target audiences while they are actively seeking information and convey product benefits. Radio spots also support the print campaign.
DISTRIBUTOR NETWORK APPLICATIONS
Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products and its national accounts also set out to talk to producers face-to-face. Some national accounts invited producers and their influencers to seminars that discussed general calf care and nutrition methods and, specifically, the Cow's Match program. "Calf Colleges" featured Dr. Mike Van Amburgh of Cornell University, a third-party key influencer who has conducted extensive research on the new system of raising calves. Representatives of Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products also have appeared at a series of Calf Colleges, seminars and other presentations around the country to meet with key influencers and producers. In addition, Mike Fowler, director of nutritional services for Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products, visited with 15 universities and three key consulting veterinarian services in California to share the Cow's Match story. PUBLIC RELATIONS
Knowing that producers view dairy magazines as a key information source, releases and feature articles also were developed for the leading agricultural trade publications, including Dairy Today, Midwest DairyBusiness, Hoard's Dairyman and Dairy Herd Management. In addition, customizable local and regional releases were provided to dealers to send to the media or include in their end-user correspondence. Topics covered introduction of the product, the unique qualities of Cow's Match, research and calf nutrition tips.
The 2002 Agricultural Publications Summit in Reno, Nev., allowed Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products officials to connect with key national media contacts. A creative trade show booth and ancillary tactics increased attendee booth traffic and encouraged dialogue. A media kit included a list of "key sources," which editors could call for expert commentary in future young animal nutrition articles.
All Land O'Lakes Animal Milk Products national account sales managers were given tools to create excitement about Cow's Match and help them sell against other feeding methods. Sales-support materials, including product brochures, sell sheets and producer testimonial sheets, convey the scrapbook theme.
The Cow's Match marketing campaign also includes a revision of the existing Web site. In addition to applying a scrapbook-style template, the redesign also features ongoing news and research, along with a photo gallery, encouraging Cow's Match customers to share their Cow's Match successes online.
Although the campaign is still young, preliminary sales figures indicate an outcome beyond expectations.
"We felt very strongly that if you want to effectively state your case, you need to talk directly to your audience. Forget the fancy footwork. Judging by the comments we've received, we have connected with producers. And that's very gratifying," Bezdicek says. AM