Cabot Creamery can't spend millions on media campaigns for its award-winning cheeses. Fortunately, grassroots marketing and social media fit like a glove, since Cabot is a cooperative of 1,200 dairy farming families.
"Community lies at the heart of the cooperative concept and our marketing approach," sums up Senior VP, marketing Roberta MacDonald.
Latest case in point: Cabot's "Community Soup Swap," which combines at-home events thrown by popular bloggers, a social media-driven recipe contest and donations to food banks.
The Cabot initiative ties in with "National Soup Swap Day" on Jan. 22, a grassroots event if there ever was one. Started locally in the late '90s by Seattle resident Knox Gardner as a way to share soup leftovers, the concept has been fed by a site (soupswap.com) and a Facebook community, and has in recent years become an annual late-January event.
On Jan. 22, food and mom bloggers located in several states, including Maine, Michigan, Texas, Missouri and Kansas, will hold Cabot Soup Swap parties in their homes. Each guest will be asked to bring six quarts of homemade soup, include Cabot products in their recipes, and submit these in a soup swap contest via a microsite accessed through a tab created on Cabot's Facebook page. Cabot is supplying cheese and door prizes for the parties, during which guests will blog, post videos and share photos (as well as soup).
Participating blogs include extraordinarymommy.com, v3im.com/blog, greenandcleanmom.org, asouthernfairytale.com, theamericankc.com and candacekaru.com -- the last the blog of Cabot's official consumer lifestyle commentator, "favorite foodie" and social media team member Candace Karu.
To extend the swap nationwide, between Jan. 17 and 28, Cabot is encouraging fans via Facebook and its Twitter presence (twitter.com/ cabotcoop) to submit their own favorite original soup recipes in the contest. Cabot's nutrition team will choose 10 finalist recipes, and the two winners will be chosen by the New England Culinary Institute. The winners will be permanently featured among the recipes housed on the brand's Web site (cabotcheese.coop).
For each recipe entered through the Facebook page, Cabot will donate $1 to the Vermont Campaign to End Childhood Hunger -- and gift entrants with a $1 coupon for its products. The brand is also encouraging consumers to throw their own soup swap parties, and donate cans of soup to their local food banks.
The swap is typical of Cabot's marketing strategy. For instance, in addition to developing relationships with bloggers and ongoing, integrated social media efforts (Facebook fans and Twitter followers number about 25,000 and 10,000, respectively), Cabot has built a network of family and friends across the country who arrange for sampling events at community activities and nonprofit events, according to MacDonald. "We hold our own against the big brands by stressing quality and taste," so sampling is critical to building on the brand's loyal following, she says.
Cabot's community focus is reflected in events like a partnership with Celebrity Cruises, in which 40 people chosen as outstanding contributors to their communities by AARP, the National Community Service Corp. and a Ladies Home Journal program promoted on radio stations are being treated to a deluxe, five-day cruise. In a program featured on the brand's site, "Random Acts of Cheddar," representatives visit community organizations to gift them with cheddar. Fans can also nominate their own candidates for recognition.