Aug. 22 2022 08:00 AM

The landscape of consumer advertising has changed drastically, which is why check-off programs look a lot different today than in the past.

I distinctly remember being in the lunch line at school and seeing posters of famous football players and singers posed dramatically, a milk moustache on their upper lip, a glass of milk in their hand, and the words “got milk?” written next to them. It was sure entertaining to see, and it got my attention, but why are posters and billboards like these not seen anymore?

I learned a great deal about dairy checkoff programs when I was the farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy last summer. My biggest lesson: checkoff programs don’t work like one would expect them to. The work of checkoff is much more subtle than a blaring TV ad or striking billboard. Those things are forgettable, or all together skippable in today’s world. A company can pay a million dollars for an advertisement to play on Hulu, and all a consumer has to do is pay extra to skip those ads.

I watched the real, and much more effective work of check-off in today’s environment happen by connecting with core consumers directly online and partnering with restaurants and other businesses to promote and utilize more dairy products.

A podcast episode from “Your Dairy Checkoff” featured industry experts who discussed this topic to help producers understand where their checkoff dollars are going.

Suzanne Fanning, senior vice president at Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin, discussed why the “got milk?” campaign isn’t seen anymore. “Millions of dollars were invested in this program for several years. By the time people sat down to analyze the results of the campaign, they saw it was doing nothing to actually increase consumption of dairy products,” Fanning said. “There is still a place for advertising, but we think about what is going to actually be effective, and what will change people’s minds and move their hearts.”

Jeff McCrory is a strategist for Mischief USA and was another guest on this episode. “There is a new and different generation that we are trying to reach,” McCrory described. “The goal is to introduce dairy to them in a new and fresh way that piques their interest while still maintaining the truth.”

Using the same old tactics and strategies is not going to work in a world of Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok where information is at the fingertips of consumers. If people are curious about a topic, they can do a quick Google search to find an answer – no matter if that answer is right or wrong.

“If farmers are seeing the work that checkoff programs are doing on social media, then we know what we did was not effective because they are not the target audience of our messages,” McCrory emphasized.

I suggest taking a closer look at your next Domino’s pizza box if you really want to see checkoff at work. They have been a partner of the dairy industry for many years, and in return, they are the No.1 pizza chain in the United States. It is estimated that six billion more pounds of milk has been used since Domino’s reformulated its pizza recipe in 2008 thanks to Dairy Management Inc.

Mikayla Peper

Mikayla grew up near Osceola, Wis. She discovered her passion for the dairy industry while working on her neighbors’ Holstein dairy farm. That spurred her involvement in 4-H and FFA, and following graduation from Osceola High School, she headed to the University of Minnesota to pursue a degree in agricultural communication and marketing. During the school year, she worked as a website designer for the University of Minnesota department of animal science, and last summer, she was a farmer relations intern for Midwest Dairy. Peper is serving as the 2022 Hoard’s Dairyman editorial intern.