Two reports on dairy related products back-to-back. I should be able to milk this for something. While our previous prior posting on Stonyfield Farms, emphasized organic wholesomeness, Denali Flavors, a Michigan-based company that supplies elite flavors to 80 ice cream-making dairies might come closer to decadence.
Of the scores of interviews we're conducting for this book, this one, with EVP John Nardini gives Robert and me the greatest ambivalence. Why? Because one of their blogs--Moosetopia--portends to be written by a fictitious character, in this case a cartoon moose. We are traditionally dead-set against such marketing cuteness. We can hear our friend Hugh McLeod from Gaping Void already shouting "lame," and comparing it to the deceptive and truly lame Captain Morgan. We are closer to the fence on this one, in part because Nardini, is the ghost writer behind the moose, and he's not trying to deceive anyone. He's been great in our interaction with him and passionate about trying something different and having fun."I think the moose blog is unique, entertaining, and a new legitimate way to blog. I think there will be more of this in the future," he told us, giving us a polite warning that by the time our book is on shelf, there will be numerous such blogs from marketers and therefore we should include the Moosetopia case in our book.
Nardini informed us that Denali will be doing at least two additional blogs and they will be authored by real, identifiable people and will include,in his words,"the good, the bad, and the ugly" of the company. He says, "this will help our brand and let people see inside," which is the kind of talk we like and persuades us to keep an open mind on the Denali menagerie.
"So there you have it – am I ahead-of-the-curve or am I Satan’s brother? I’ll let you guys tell me."
And we will, but right now, we're just not yet certain what we will have to say about the antlered facade and we will let both the Blogosphere and Denali's market weigh in before deciding.
One more note. John's zeal for his product required us to tone down his consistent vows that everyone who ever tried his product loves it. This may or may not be true, but were more interested in understand just what the Moose Track folk are up to and how others feel about it.
Q1. Where is Moose Track Ice Cream sold and why should people buy it as opposed to Ben & Jerry’s?
SUMMARY of ANSWER: The company’s name is Denali flavors and its most popular item is Moose Tracks Ice Cream (www.moosetracks.com). It doesn't actually make ice cream, but develops flavors which it licenses to about 80 independent dairies. Currently, we work with 80 dairies and are found in different brands all over the U.S. These brands produce about $50 million in annual sales, but as licensors, they see only a fraction of that.
Denali focuses on national marketing stuff like PR and the web and lets the dairies do local promotions. Nardini contended that it differentiates from national brands like Ben & Jerry's by offering distinctive flavors, value pricing and use of cute, quirky characters.
Q2. When did the blog start? Whose idea was it? Why do you blog?
Officially, the blog hasn’t started – we’re technically in the development process. There are still a few things I want to add/correct to make it look better as well as have more content before we start marketing it actively.
The idea was mine after I started researching blogging and saw that it was a powerful tool for a small business like ours. It was then that we developed a multi-blog strategy that includes Moosetopia.com as well as a small business/inside Denali blog and some others.
Each of our blogs has a different reason for blogging. With Moosetopia.com, we want to show our character’s broader personality as well as reinforce our products as fun. So what could be better than an entertainment blog written by the moose himself?
Q3. Who’s your target audience?
Anyone who wants to be entertained by jokes, whacky items found on the web, inspirational stories, puns, etc. Most likely, the audience will be adult (25-55) and will likely be made up of our current customers at first. We hope non-customers will eventually read it, get to know our character and ultimately try our products.
We will not be overtly talking about our products. This isn’t a typical business blog – we won’t be discussing flavors, asking for consumer comments on our products, soliciting new product ideas, responding to issues, etc. Moosetopia.com will be strictly entertainment to engage people and get them more familiar with the character.
Q4 How many visitors do you get? How many links do you have?
Right now, Typepad has us at 414 page views in two weeks and Technorati show’s us having no links. Since we really haven’t marketed the blog, this is neither surprising nor upsetting. I expect people to embrace the blog once we get the word out. And the good news for a small business like ours is that we don’t need 50,000 visitors and 10,000 links to impact our business.
With this said, we plan to start actively marketing in a few weeks.
Q5 What will you do to market it?
We'll cover all the "basic" blog marketing tactics such as posting regularly, posting content people want to see, pinging all the recommended sites after each post, networking with other bloggers, posting comments and trackbacks, and the like – things that generally any article on blog promotion will tell you to do.
Then we want to supplement these efforts with some unusual ideas such as:
- Offline media – We'll focus on our blog as part of these efforts. In addition, the moose himself is willing to be interviewed so we'll see if there is anyone brave enough to talk to him.
- Emails – We've done some email testing and can testify that it is a great way to market. We're fortunate to have a great list and while it's not big, our consumers are very active in promoting our products so we think we'll get a lot of pass-along and word-of-mouth from this.
- Free stuff – There's nothing in the world of marketing like free stuff. We've got all sorts of cute moose items that people would love to have – shirts, towels, stuffed animals, key chains, magnets, etc., and we'll use them in creative ways to get people to visit often.
- Viral marketing – We're going to try a few things – ecards (may be past their prime, but a moose card might work), flash mini-movies, games, and the like.
- Site of the week – We'll be awarding a "Moosetopia Site of the Week Award" to one website or blog every week.
- The moose might write a book (or a syndicated column), he might make the news over his (alleged, not confirmed) on again-off again romance with a yet unnamed cartoon character, or he may start talking to up-and-coming X Games participants about wearing his logo wear.
Q6. How does blogging fit into your overall marketing campaign?
It’s going to be a large part of what we’ll be doing because of the issues addressed in question #1. It’s a cost-effective way to communicate with a national audience and perfect for a small business like ours.
Q7. What’s the blog’s objective?
Our key objective is brand awareness for our. There is only a very small portion of people who have tried Moose Tracks and don’t like it – most love it. But many, many more haven’t heard of it. So a key objective of all our marketing (including this blog) is to get people to be aware of the brand and ultimately try it.
Q 8. How does blogging fit into your overall marketing campaign?
It’s going to be a large part of what we’ll be doing in the future because of the issues addressed in question #1. It’s a cost-effective way to communicate with a national audience and perfect for a small business like ours.
Q9. What’s the blog’s objective?
Brand awareness. A key objective is to get people to be aware of the brand and ultimately try it. If we can get them to taste it, the product will do the rest of our job for us.
Q10. Do you have any advice for other companies considering blogging?
1. Read and study a lot of blogs. See what people are saying, how they say it, how they link, what their sites look like, etc. Absorb yourself in blogging. And look at different types of blogs – different “genres” of blogs will show you different things. I currently subscribe to about 75 blogs on News Gator and 50 or so at Bloglines.
2. Start blogging right away – even as you read and learn. While doing #1 will help you out a lot, you’ll miss much of what people are saying unless you are dealing with it. There are so many free blogging tools out there (and even free trial periods for the for-fee services like TypePad), that there’s no risk for you to start now. Write about your family, your cat, your rose growing hobby, whatever. Just get started. And try several different services.
3. Be a free thinker. Even within the (supposedly) open-minded world of blogging, there are certain attitudes of “this is the way it should be done”. My opinion is that the blogosphere isn’t even close to being standardized yet, and over the next few months and years we’ll see tons of new and better ways to use blogging than how “conventional wisdom” says we should use it today. I don’t mean things like not to plagiarize others’ work – that will always be something that should be followed – but I’m talking about things like “blogs should always do this” or “always do that”. If you think something new should be tried and have solid reasons for it, go for it.
Q11. Additional Comments
One reason I think blogging works so well for small businesses is that there’s a lot less bureaucracy to work through at a small company. As such, small businesses can be up and blogging well before larger competitors.
I agree that there’s a place for a non-anonymous blog (and would even concede that this is and should be the norm – at least for the present time). By writing as a real person, you establish a trust and a connection with people that you can’t get in any other way. You also get comments and feedback that can be useful for your business. That’s why our company will be launching a blog written by our executives that will detail the issues small businesses deal with as well as discuss the behind-the-scenes action at Denali. We’ll also solicit consumer feedback, ideas, and the like on this blog. We expect it to be very popular with our core consumer base.
In my opinion there’s also a place for a blog like Moosetopia.com
We are not so sure. We will be very interested to see the response to this interview.