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Milk ad awareness beating top brands

Don Mayo discusses the promotion of Canadian milk at a Dairy Farmers of Canada policy conference in Ottawa. (John Greig photo)

Dairy Farmers of Canada is trying harder to track how well its marketing efforts boost milk sales, after Ontario members pulled promotion funding over a lack of information.

Dairy Farmers of Canada’s (DFC) policy conference this week in Ottawa included a presentation by Don Mayo, global managing partner for IMI, an organization that measures media campaigns around the world.

Mayo is partway through a multi-year project to measure how well DFC campaigns reach consumers, and to present return on investment for marketing spending.

The results for the 2017 campaign were exceptional in brand awareness, although Mayo will need more campaigns in 2018 before he will be able to report on return on investment.

Milk is a strange outlier in the beverage market, as in Canada it doesn’t have one commercial brand, compared to other large beverage brands like Coke.

Here’s some of what Mayo’s research found:

  • Milk ranked third in unaided awareness of brand advertising in surveys of consumers. That’s above Tim Horton’s, Apple and McDonald’s. Canadian Tire didn’t make the top 10 and neither did any of the banks, said Mayo.
  • “There is no doubt it (the milk brand) has broken through,” Mayo said, but “there’s no guarantee it will be there next year.”
  • Milk also comes in third in unaided memory of advertising in the beverage category after Coke and Pepsi.
  • The 2017 milk campaigns included a cheese campaign about an animated father and daughter who make cheese, run digitally, and large national campaigns that included sports players pouring a “tall cold one” of milk, and several spots that played on the “crying over spilt milk” theme. There were also other initiatives that focused on nutrition, which performed well in surveys.
  • DFC also introduced a new logo in 2017 that focused more on modern messaging, with a modern cow and new colouring that replaced an older logo with a cartoonish cow. Farmers were attached to what was known as the “little blue cow” but Mayo says the number of Canadians who remember seeing the logo rose from 45 per cent in 2016 to 70 per cent in 2017. The new logo and colour were heavily integrated into marketing campaigns and the number of companies using it has increased since the logo was modernized.
  • Traditional advertising, especially on television, continues to perform significantly better than digital ads, which is what is being found across many campaigns. “You are beating the biggest beer brands in this race,” Mayo said.

David Janssens, a dairy farmer from British Columbia and a member of the DFC board, said promotion funds from his farm alone are $100,000. He expressed concern that funding for promotion is increasingly fractioned across the country.

“It is truly a serious issue,” he said. Dairy producers at the policy conference were going to discuss the issue in a closed session.

Budget changes

Ontario’s decision to pull out of national dairy product promotion continues to have repercussions for DFC and how Canadians will see dairy products.

The decision by Dairy Farmers of Ontario last June and in place January 2018, meant a delayed 2018 budget as DFC reworked its staffing and commitments based on the reality of losing $37.5 million in 2018 out of what was an $89 million budget in 2017.

A large proportion of the DFC budget goes to the national promotion and education campaigns that dairy farmers have undertaken for years.

DFC has also been in a period of fluctuation in staff with the departure of its executive director last summer as well as other staff. The organization hired Jacques Lefebvre as its new executive director in January.

Sorting out the new budgetary reality will continue with the 2019 budget, with a potential complete budget overhaul, said Sylvie LaRose, DFC’s director of finance.

Ontario’s concerns with marketing and promotion at DFC started about six years ago, said Dairy Farmers of Ontario board chair Ralph Dietrich, a DFC board member. There was an increase in promotion fees to producers at that time.

“There were questions on this from the producers’ perspective,” Dietrich said. “They agreed with it, but conditionally, and one of the conditions was to see how the money was being spent and what is the return on the investments.”

The request for that information was made, but “unfortunately we did get what was required. We needed it as a board to pass it on to producers who were asking us for it.”

The lines of communication remain open and Ontario will continue to work with DFC on some promotion projects. DFO has expressed strong support for the rest of DFC’s mandate.

— John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia based at Ailsa Craig, Ont. Follow him at @jgreig on Twitter.

About the author

Field editor

John Greig

John Greig is a field editor for Glacier FarmMedia.


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