‘Cheesy’ Tradeshow PR Generates Delicious Results for B2B Campaign

Dairy Management Inc., an association dedicated to helping drive demand for dairy products, wanted to make a bang at the Institute of Food Technologists Expo earlier in 2002. The association was looking to generate interest among major manufacturers attending the show in partnerships that would leverage DMI's science and technology to bring new dairy products to the table. But the show generally draws hundreds of exhibitors, and, as is the case with most tradeshows, reporters covering the event typically pick a few hot stories and ignore the rest. The product development execs attending from major food manufacturers could also easily overlook DMI and the potential partnerships the association had to offer. The team at PR firm tuckerknapp/integrated marketing communications (TKI) knew it would have to move beyond traditional business-to-business tactics to be one of the hot stories coming out of the show. Stu Greenblatt, director of public relations for TKI, and Kathy Cummings, public relations manager, both have a background in consumer PR and have done work for consumer goods manufacturers like Procter & Gamble. When they saw a chance to bring that consumer experience to bear for DMI, they jumped on it. "We needed something that would grab the attention of food scientists and visitors," Cummings says. "We were looking for something that would surprise people. One area that would was consumer trends. Unfortunately, this information isn't [readily available] to food scientists, but they're always interested in it." The Study of Cheese The team first conducted a little research on the dairy market. The cheese category was enjoying phenomenal growth, but new products like cheeses flavored with roasted peppers and other seasonings were targeted primarily at adults. Cheese sales were on the rise, but sales of products targeted at kids were stagnant. The TKI team knew a DMI-managed research center at Utah State University was developing a technology manufacturers could use to "inject" cheese with various flavors. With the recent trends in wildly colored and flavored foods in mind (think green ketchup and colored margarine), Cummings and her team asked the scientists what they could produce for kids. The result was cheeses with subtle "injected" flavors including grape and bubble gum. Sounds repugnant, right? TKI figured adult product development professionals would think so, too, so they took the cheeses straight to kids with a focus group/taste test conducted at a Chicago elementary school. The team had cameras rolling as kids heartily endorsed the new flavors, and they turned the focus group into b-roll. On the first day of the Expo, TKI conducted a press conference before the show doors opened. Media sampled the cheeses, learned about the technology and watched the videotaped reactions from kids. In an unusual move, the team invited mainstream media including local broadcast outlets and parenting magazines to cover the innovation. "We knew we had a really interesting story, and we thought consumers would be interested in hearing it," Cummings says. Media who were unable to attend the press conference received copies of the b-roll. The media literally ate it up. One local TV station in attendance not only used pieces of the b-roll, but did a live remote with its own on-the-spot taste test conducted among kids attending the show with their parents. Results The tradeshow tactics generated more than 2 million broadcast impressions and more than 1.5 million print impressions. The team expects more press is forthcoming from the food trade press, many of which are monthly publications with fairly long lead times. Booth attendance at the show also increased 18 percent to 354 visitors. "The thing that kicked it up and made it different this year was the consumer publicity," Greenblatt says. While you may not see bubble gum cheese in your dairy case in the next few months, Cummings and Greenblatt report that several major manufacturers are in talks with DMI to conduct focus groups and further research on using the "injected flavor" technique. The focus group b-roll has become not just a valuable tool for garnering press coverage, but a powerful vehicle for DMI as it works with the product development teams at manufacturers: The kids' reactions to the cheese have been shown again and again. "PR was able to demonstrate consumer pull," Cummings says. Campaign Stats Budget: The budget for the entire tradeshow portion of the campaign was a mere $25,000, including a donation to the school where the focus group was conducted, production of the b-roll and press kits for the show as well as the press conference opening the show. If you think that figure is impossibly tight, think again. The original budget for the show was even lower, and TKI had to persuade the client to loosen the purse strings. tuckerknapp Stats HQ: Schaumberg, IL Specialty: Business-to-business advertising and integrated marketing communications Sample of Clients: Ameritech, Motorola, ConAgra, Com-disco, Henkel, MCI System-house, Red Star Bio-Products, URL: http://www.tuckerknapp.com (Contacts: Cummings, kathy. cummings@tuckerknapp.com; Greenblatt, stuart.greenblatt@tuckerknapp.com, 847/995-8400)

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