Friday, August 5, 2011

Make it Stick: Joint Marketing

Marketing is a funny thing. When you're flying high, everyone wants to be associated with you. That's one reason that Lucky Charms is now "whole grain" and Tostitos is making an artisan tortilla chip. If there is a trend, marketers will glom onto it - and fast.

In the cheese business, cheese is pretty hot these days. There's tons of small batch, homemade, heirloom culture cheeses produced by entrepreneurial MBAs in vermont who are living closer to the land and pursuing their life dreams. So, being associated with high-falooutin' cheese would be good for any product. It's part of intellectual eco-friendly culinary movement thing these days.

As a cheese marketer, therefore, I get a lot of proposals for joint marketing. In a really good proposal, I can see the use case clearly. When the cracker team shows up and says "Let me pitch to you - cheese and cracker pairings!" it makes sense. Sesame crackers with havarti. Pumpernickel with goat cheese. I'm excited. We can do things.

The problem is, when you're cheese these days, EVERYONE wants to be your friend. So, I get a lot of really random proposals. Proposals like Cheese - now with yogurt!  or Cheese - and oatmeal! or Cheese with Cookies! 

Now, I love cheese. I can see a lot of fascinating use cases for cheese. If someone came to me with this:

Oatmeal is the grits of the north. Have you ever tried it savory? No one has. But, I promise you, some goat cheese and a bit of cheddar, and you have an easy, healthy side dish.

I might be skeptical. I might whip up a batch. I might try to feed it to my husband. But, it's a fair attempt to link oatmeal to cheese, so I would give it the time it deserved.

The problem is, a lot of people want to co-market with cheese without a story.  They come to me and say CHEESE AND YOGURT.  I reply something like "Do tell. Is it yogurt-flavored cheese, cheese flavored yogurt, yogurt topped with cheese? what is this proposal?"

and they say: CHEESE AND YOGURT.  They are both dairy foods. People love dairy foods. Why are you being so obstinate?

I've spent months saying:  "Oh, I agree. I love both cheese and yogurt. I actually wonder why people don't eat more savory yogurt dishes. I'm there with you - just give me the outline of a recipe and we'll go from there."

and they come back and say: CHEESE AND YOGURT!!!!!

Months have passed. I have been cast as the person blocking the brilliance of cheese and yogurt. All I want is any single recipe or thread upon which to build the joint cheese and yogurt message - and I get nothing. The bar isn't high at all, but it is work I cannot do for them - and a this point, on principle, will not do for them...

If you're going to ride someone's coattails... it's up to you to bring the hook.

5 comments:

Kara R said...

What, you mean you actually want a CHEESE and YOGURT STRATEGY??? GASP! Of course, most people are great with ideas just lousy on the execution. My best advice is to forget the cheese and yogurt and have a lovely glass of wine.

Rob said...

When you work at Dannon, you'd probably think everyone loves the mere thought of a big heap of yogurt. Whether you're talking yogurt manufacturers, bureaucrats, or academics, specialized work tends to create closed systems whose sense of importance is self-reinforcing. (Myopic narcissism also a plus.)

Martin Sandren said...

As a person from a country with an exceptional strong dairy lobby I like this focus on milk based products.

May I suggest cheese and some pickled herring? (this actually is a classic Swedish dish)

Shannon C said...

I'm with Kara on this one. Have the wine instead.

Lilac - Like The Flower said...

Hilarious! Yes, I think everything must be obviously better with a dollop of yogurt - including the wine! Martin has proven that by introducing yogurt herring...

and of course, the obvious next step would be fruit-flavored yogurt herring....

And somewhere out there, I'm trying to work that into a press release...