Danielle Pinnington believes we should share the passion shown by dairy farmers
With the UK dairy farming community battling against supermarket buy-in cuts, could more be done to make milk consumers buy British? T his week I was lucky enough to be presenting a paper at the 25th Semex Dairy Conference just as news of the latest price decrease on milk hit the headlines.
Clearly this price cut was the worst news possible for every other attendee at the conference, but the reason I felt lucky was because it meant I saw dairy category producers at their most passionate. Here was a room full of people who knew just how good their products are because they are closely involved in every step, from choosing the breeding bull, to nurturing the calves, and ultimately to delivering top quality milk to us consumers or to brand manufacturers such as Arla and Muller. But here’s the rub. The average consumer regularly picks their milk bottle off the shelf with not a thought to what has gone into it.
And if they don’t stop and think, what are the chances of them deciding to trade up, or make sure they buy British? This is a huge challenge for this particular category. There is so much that could be communicated, but much of the dairy category is sold in small packs – pats of butter, blocks of cheese, or yoghurt cartons – so there is very little space to communicate with the shopper. At best consumers are presented with POS showing farm field scenes or pictures of happy farmers going about their business. At worst they are shown nothing except a disorientating array of small packs.
So for an industry alive with passion for its products and its place in the national psyche, it is eerily silent when it comes to that first moment of truth – the point of purchase. Symbols like the Red Tractor can play a role, but do consumers really understand what the image means or stands for? To work effectively for the industry the Red Tractor needs to act as a strong symbol for key benefits – benefits that will mean something to the consumer, perhaps around trust, transparency, quality and reassurance.
Again, it needs communication in order to gain the kind of traction that means consumers look for the symbol before finalising their choice at fixture. Of course this won’t immediately solve the pricing crisis, but if the industry could share just some of their passion with consumers instore, then commodity purchasing starts to be challenged. Perhaps then they will start to question whether good quality milk can be bought at such low prices. As soon as that question hits the fan, the retailers will take note because it begins to undermine trust in the retailer overall.
At the heart of this is the need to communicate strong messages to consumers. Ideally ones that resonate, and give them a reason to choose one brand or one price segment over another. There is no point being completely passionate about your brand in the four walls of an office or an ad agency. Get out there, and bang the drum at exactly the point when they are either going to buy or going to pass by your brand – instore. n For more thoughts from Danielle and the Shoppercentric team please visit their blog on www.fmcgnews.co.uk