As many as 60 British dairy farmers a month were quitting the trade at the turn of the year, driven out by dangerously low farm-gate milk prices and operating losses. At the same time, supermarkets were embarking on a price war that saw retail milk prices fall to £1 for four pints.
The National Farmers’ Union set out to educate supermarket shoppers on the true cost of discounted milk prices for Britain’s farmers and to show them how they could back British dairy farming.
The digital-led campaign followed a three pronged approach – farmer blogs, consumer advice and information and expert analysis. The union’s own research found that Facebook was the best way to target specific demographics, NFUOnline.com was the best home for longer content and that Twitter played a role in driving traffic to its website as well as raising awareness.
It set an objective of reaching one million people on Facebook, one million on Twitter and to get 25,000 people to read its Back British Dairy Farming pages on its website within four weeks. Consumer research had already indicated that farmers were trusted by the British public, so the union scoured the UK for the strongest case studies.
After identifying three farmers, it helped them to write 300 word blogs and took professional pictures of them on their farms.
In just one week, 6,000 people clicked through to NFUOnline to read the blogs in full and find out more information, while the three were read 275,000 times on Facebook, with more than 2,000 ‘Likes’, comments and shares. The union received hundreds of messages from supporters, asking how they could support British farmers when buying milk.
Two Facebook fans were then invited to write consumer blogs, giving a voice to the shoppers. These were ‘Liked’, commented and shared more than 4,000 times on Facebook, reaching 100,000 people, and were read 1,000 times on NFUOnline.
The next strand of the campaign involved offering consumer advice and information, alongside expert analysis. This included a report explaining why there was a milk crisis, a consumer FAQ and a buyer’s guide to labels, such as the Red Tractor logo. The union also explained why and how buying British butter, cheese, yoghurt and cream could also support the farmers.
When supporters started to ask which retailers treated British farmers well, the union’s chief dairy and legal advisers worked on a delicately worded blog to explain how the supply chain worked, while the five top retailers supporting the industry at that time were highlighted on its website.
In just one week, 1.3 million people saw the Facebook campaign, generating 56,000 comments and shares, while the union’s iconic ‘British Milk Bottles’ image was seen by 730,000 people on Facebook and shared 1,000 times on Twitter. The blogs, consumer advice and expert analysis were read in excess of 57,000 times on the website, more than double its initial target.
The digital campaign soon impacted the real world. Sainsbury’s launched a national print media campaign, advertising its commitment to British farmers. A question about dairy prices and what the government could do to support the sector was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions, while on BBC’s Question Time a similar question prompted unanimous agreement from the panel that Britain’s farmers needed more support.
This campaign had ‘clear objectives and a clear target audience; it was through-the-line multi stakeholders’, said the judges. ‘With a very small budget, this achieved great results.’