Stonyfield Farm Uses NPR To Find Upscale Customers

The nation’s leading organic yogurt maker is using the power of two of National Public Radio’s biggest stars to help promote its campaign for cleaner vehicles.

But it’s not using NPR itself because NPR’s policy prohibits its participation in campaigns.

Londonderry, N.H.-based Stonyfield Farm’s promotional and advertising campaigns have been more about health and environmental concerns than about Stonyfield Farm yogurt.

Its latest campaign asks new-car shoppers to ask themselves whether they really need large, gasoline-guzzling SUVs. When it looked for help in its “Live Larger, Drive Smaller” campaign, they found enthusiastic partners in Tom and Ray Magliozzi, the Boston-based hosts of NPR’s “Car Talk.” The brothers often rail against SUVs for environmental and other reasons on their program.

“They were dying for a company that was willing to put their values out there,” said CEO Gary Hirschberg. “It was a marriage made in heaven.”

The campaign isn’t selling anything other than cleaner air, although its main message is being sent out on Stonyfield Farm’s products: Yogurt lids. Millions of them. It’s a placement that Stonyfield Farm has learned to use to its advantage. The lids have been used to promote organic and healthful living, environmentalism and even for political action. (A 1994 campaign against the Republican “Contract With America” led to 15,000 sending their lids to Capitol Hill.)

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“We’ve been in the business of putting views forward on our yogurt lids,” Hirschberg said. “It’s been a very, very effective medium.”

But since the campaign launched Aug. 17 on “Car Talk,” it’s had an unexpected turn. A snafu led to Stonyfield Farm printing 3.1 million yogurt lids believing it had permission to use NPR’s name before finding out that public radio doesn’t allow it. Quick-thinking marketers found a way to make the snafu part of the promotion: “Car Talk” listeners and Stonyfield Farm users have been asked to come up with ways to reuse the yogurt lids. There have been tens of thousands of responses so far.

Hirschberg said it isn’t likely that the “Live Larger, Drive Smaller” campaign will go beyond “Car Talk.” He said NPR’s highly educated listeners would seem to be a perfect target for the SUV message. “But if this thing gains momentum, you never know,” he said.

This promotion comes at a time when Stonyfield Farm has supplanted its guerrilla marketing campaign with more traditional advertising. VP Marketing Tim Kenny said most of Stonyfield Farm’s campaigns have been focused on environmentalism, the benefits of yogurt and organics. It’s only been this year, with a 30-second TV spot and a round of magazine and radio advertising that kicked off in the spring, that Stonyfield Farm has focused solely on its product. The spring campaign included network TV spot buys in Boston and regional TV buys in New York, Philadelphia, Hartford and Providence. There were regional TV buys in Florida, Chicago and Texas. The creative was designed by eFlicks of Boston and planning and buying done by Carat Freeman in Boston.

An upcoming fall campaign will feature another 30-second TV spot with Hirschberg and his daughter, centered around the company’s new portable liquid yogurt. Kenny said there will continue to be a regional focus to the campaign in the areas where Stonyfield Farm’s distribution is strongest. There will be some national buys, Kenny said, although it will grow when Stonyfield Farm’s distribution grows.

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