Building brand recognition
How to run a champagne ad campaign on a beer budget
By Teri Ditisch
Editor’s Note: Ditisch is communications
specialist for Cooperative Solutions,
a federated cooperative in Arizona that
provides management services to its
member/owner cooperatives: AMAROK
(a drywall distributor co-op), NEMEON
(a roofing distributor co-op), and YaYa!
Bike (a specialty bicycle retailer co-op).
This article is reprinted from the October
2002 issue of CCA News.
How could this phrase
help your co-op get
noticed? Sending members
out into the world
wearing “Ask Me” t-shirts is one way
Cabot Creamery of Vermont started
building name recognition for the
The t-shirt campaign was the brainchild
of Roberta MacDonald, vice president
of marketing for Agri-Mark, a
dairy co-op owned by 1,400 New England
and New York dairy farmers who
own Cabot cheese. Her award-winning,
campaigns have helped turn Cabot into
a nationally known brand.
Cabot has been dairy farmer-owned
since 1919. It began developing its signature
brand of dairy products in 1984.
When MacDonald arrived in 1989, the
co-op had an annual marketing budget of
$100,000. Today, Cabot products can be
found in grocery stores around the nation
and the marketing budget has grown to
$10 million, which is still a small amount
compared to its national competitors.
During the Cooperative Communicators
Association 2002 Institute in
Vermont, MacDonald shared her
secrets about how to “make a modest
marketing budget look like a million.”
- Invest in modest research to
know as much as you can about your customers.
Who are they? Who are their
families? Find out what they like and dislike
about you. What gets them excited?
Do not spend money on public relations
or advertising without research. “We
know everything we can about a community
before we spend one dollar of dairy
farmer money,” MacDonald said.
- Take your goods or services to
where “like” people are, such as tourist
attractions, historic sites, parks or large
community events. Cabot has “lobbed
cheese hunks at tourists on ski slopes, at
golf courses and in state parks” for 5
years, and they still do.
- Take advantage of the success
of others or borrow liberally from the
better-known brand, team and personality.
Use what consumers know to
your advantage. What are the major
players doing? Start doing it.
- Take advantage of any competition
and WIN! Cabot has won every
major award for taste. If there isn’t a
contest in your field, make one up and
win it. Example contests might include
customer satisfaction, cutest couple for
Valentine’s Day, best energy savings idea
or smartest college savings strategy. “Use
the win. Get it out there,” MacDonald
said. “Make sure it is known you are a
winner. The public loves a winner.”
- Take advantage of public relations.
Use the media. Slow news days
happen, so have your story ready but
don’t include a date. Make any event fun
and any event can become news. “Use
PR; it’s cheap compared to advertising,”
says MacDonald, who spends 20 percent
of her budget on public relations. She
spends very little media money. Make
connections with other cooperatives.
Give free or discount coupons. Make
outrageous connections. Cabot made
alliances with museums.
- Use your members to illustrate
who you are. Cabot put the faces and
farms of its members on center stage in
its ad campaigns. But beware, some
doubting consumers wanted to see if the
faces were real. The skeptics actually visited
the farms and, to their surprise, were
greeted by the same farmers they saw in
the ads. Be sure that anyone who participates
in a campaign is someone who
could serve as a brand ambassador.