This post is part of a blogging series by marketing students at the Presidio Graduate School's MBA program. You can follow along here.
by Karen Schlesinger
Businesses of all stripes are starting to use Facebook and other social media outlets to promote themselves and connect with consumers. According to an article by Mariann Hardey in the International Journal of Market Research, by the end of 2010, 140 million brands were using Facebook to expand their market reach (2011). Among them is Stonyfield Farm, maker of organic yogurt and milk. As an early pioneer in the organic agriculture movement, Stonyfield has a long history of connecting with its consumers. From its first recipe contest in 1987, to the company’s Adopt-a-Cow program in 1990 (which still continues today), to Stonyfield’s brand-awareness campaigns that gave away millions of cups of yogurt to Chicago and Boston public transit riders between 1998 and 2004, the company has hardly needed social media to stay connected to loyal followers. But that hasn’t stopped the company from using it.
On April 1st, 2011, Stonyfield began a new Facebook campaign called “Your Organic Moment,” which asks people to share their reasons for choosing to eat organic food. And the stories, photographs, and videos have been pouring in. During the first ten days, over 550 people have posted their stories on Stonyfield’s YourOrganicMoment.com website, which is being heavily promoted through the company’s Facebook page. Stonyfield’s page received an average of 22 comments per day on Facebook during that time period, compared to 10.4 and 8.5 during the two previous 10-day periods. Interestingly, the number of “Likes” and replies to other comments declined during this same period, suggesting that users were more engaged in initiating their own comments rather than just voicing a complaint or reacting to a post by Stonyfield’s social media manager.
Communication by consumers through Stonyfield’s Facebook page and its YourOrganicMoment.com website is much more heartfelt than most of the other posts the company’s page receives. What is striking about this campaign is both the consistency of reasoning that people give for their choice, and also the personal details they are willing to share with the company and the rest of the world. Most people cite broad environmental concerns and their desire to avoid pesticides as their primary motivation, but heartbreaking tales of health issues and disease are also a shockingly common thread throughout. From stories of cancer to childhood hyper-activity to thyroid disease to diabetes to mysterious food allergies, this campaign has created a cathartic sounding board for people to share their pain and struggles. Is Stonyfield making yogurt or a miracle drug? From the range of stories and passion for organic products expressed through this campaign, one might think it’s the latter.
If Stonyfield is trying to get a window into the motivation of their consumer’s behavior, the company seems to have tapped into something here. What seems unclear, however, is what Stonyfield’s motivation is for seeking these kinds of personal stories. Is it just a community-building campaign that leverages the power of social media, or is there a deeper marketing motivation at work behind the scenes? What do you think?