Milk. Has it fallen into a rut? Fewer and fewer young people are drinking it regularly, and it appears in the dairy aisle as a nondescript mass of white cartons – one brand or variety blending into the next, often sold as a loss leader by supermarkets. Is there anything that makes milk brands special?
Mary Shelman, director of Harvard Business School’s agribusiness program, highlighted this issue in the Marketing for Business Growth session, focusing on the Coca-Cola and Fair Oaks Farms Brands partnership that brings to market new premium milk that Coca-Cola believes will revolutionize the milk sector. The company is a giant in the beverage market, beyond just soft drinks, with 20 different billion-dollar brands – including teas, juices and energy drinks.
“What’s been happening for the last 40 years is that liquid milk consumption has been in a nosedive,” Shelman said. She added that today, with the array of energy drinks, teas, sparkling waters and more, there is a “proliferation of products that are eating away at this very natural, relatively inexpensive, very healthy beverage. Isn’t it time for a ‘rebelation’ in this category?”
Shelman highlighted the “branding roadmap” she recommends for brands to create products that stand out from the crowd. Ag companies have often lagged in this arena, she said.
- Know your customer
- Give your product a job
- Develop your story
- Stand out from the crowd
- Get people talking
“The traditional way that we built brands is a thing of the past,” she said. “The new citizen consumer is much more engaged in the food they’re buying.” Smartphones have also revolutionized the way people shop, as they can garner information on food or health within seconds while shopping.
Coca-Cola, in a recent report, stated it expects its premium Fairlife milk to “rain money” following its extensive marketing efforts – despite the fact that Fairlife milks are nearly twice the cost of traditional milk, said Shelman. The Fairlife line of milk, with the tagline “Believe in better milk,” goes through a unique filtration process that produces milk with 50 percent more protein, 30 percent more calcium, half the sugars of organic milk and is lactose free.
In closing, Shelman highlighted three main points:
- Food is hot right now.
- There is a great story, but it has to be told in the right way.
Because traditional elements of building brands aren’t working, it opens the door for new and creative ways to approach products and for smaller companies to get out and fill the space.