28 June 2009

Friends of Ed - Marketing Lessons from Dairy Farmers

I just saw an ad for Borden cheese. Come to find out, Borden is a cooperative of dairy farmers. In the ad, Borden boasts "Our cooperative is 100% farmer-owned. That means 100% of our proceeds go to American dairy farmers." On the accompanying website, friendsofelsie.com (named after Borden's mascot, a cow named Elsie), visitors can read about the spirit of cooperatives and how supporting Borden supports the community.

"What does it mean to be a friend of Elsie?" the site rhetorically asks:

It means you choose to support dairy farmers who work hard every day to put the best the American farm has to offer on your table. That’s because Borden® Cheese is made by a cooperative of dairy farmers. And since our cooperative is 100% farmer-owned, 100% of our proceeds go back to American dairy farmers. Some probably near you. So, be a friend, and look for Elsie the Cow. She’s a long-standing symbol of good things from the farm and good things for families and communities everywhere.

The site lets users share recipes, stories about important contributions to the community, and even has a cool interactive map of dairy farmers and other fellow "Friends of Elsie."

It's a social network built around cheese.

My take? It works. My opinion of Borden cheese, which was, frankly, non-existent two hours ago, is now quite positive. They do a great job assuming the "little guy" role, make a "local" connection, state their purpose clearly, and make you want to root for their success. Credit unions can take a cue from this. The ad doesn't mention price. It doesn't even mention quality per se. What it does do, quite effectively, is highlight the impact of doing business with Borden. Powerful stuff.

What also strikes me is that in the marketplace for pre-sliced cheese, there really isn't a bad guy. I mean, there's the big guy - Kraft. But last I checked Kraft didn't fleece Americans for billions of dollars in fees, billions more dollars in bailouts, and reward themselves with billion dollar bonuses. Should be easier for credit unions to make this message resonate, shouldn't it?


Steve Bentley said...

Another cooperative to check out here in the Northeast (Vermont) is Cabot Creamery, http://www.cabotcheese.coop/

Another great cooperative owned by dairy farmers

Breathe said...

In my world all the midsize and smaller CUs in the US toss their brand and develop one big brand, one online banking service and shared backroom 100%. They give the big guys a run for their money.


Matt, the Credit Union Warrior said...

@Breathe In many ways I agree. However, I'm afraid there are many members of credit unions who feel connected to their financial institution because of their path to membership. If we loosen that connection to make way for a larger cooperative, I wonder what happens to that population. Then again, I wonder how many/few people may feel that impact?