5 (More) Things Marketers Can Learn from Cheese

April 21, 2015 Kathy Bryan

Last month, I read one of the best marketing articles I’d seen in a long time, and I was jealous. It was genius. For starters, the author, Elyse Dupre, associate editor of Direct Marketing News, got to write about cheese (who doesn’t want to write about cheese?). But more importantly she used cheese analogies to perfectly explain the benefits of multichannel marketing strategies, analysis with both historical and real-time data, positive customer experiences and thinking outside the box. (Unfortunately, the original article is no longer available to link to.)

So what did I do after reading the article? Well, for starters I forwarded it to a number of co-workers, next I posted it on our company's LinkedIn page and then I brainstormed additional cheeses that could be added to the list..

So here is my contribution, I hope I am making Ms. Dupre proud.

Easy Cheese

Kraft Easy CheeseOtherwise known as spray cheese, Easy Cheese is questionably cheese. In fact, cheese culture is the second to last ingredient in Easy Cheese.

If you’ve  ever eaten Easy Cheese, you know it mostly entails spraying it on anything that will get it to your mouth — crackers, chips, pretzels, your tongue, whatever.

The Easy Cheese approach to marketing is neither strategic nor particularly enjoyable beyond a transient, visceral pleasure. Easy Cheese marketers have an objective, but no data to define their audience and no real plan to move forward. By spraying their budget across a variety of media and gobbling it up, sometimes they achieve their goals. And sometimes they just empty the can, still feeling hungry and slightly disgusted with themselves. There’s nothing worse than an Easy Cheese regret.

Kraft Singles

Kraft Singles, or the generic American cheese, is the ubiquitous cheese. From cheeseburgers to grilled cheese to deli sandwiches, American cheese is the cheese for people who want cheese but don’t want those pesky cheese flavors. In fact, American cheese isn’t really a cheese at all. It can’t legally be sold as an “authentic” cheese in the United States, and, by law, it must contain two types of cheese plus 51 percent “other stuff.”

Marketers who select tactics without having defined strategies are using the American cheese style of marketing. You know, those people who say things like “we need to be on mobile” or “we need a blog” but don’t know what it entails, why they want it or what’s required to make it tasty. There’s nothing wrong with the tactics they’re proposing, but without a defined strategy, the final product will end up generic, appeal only to the lowest common denominator and fall short of its potential.

Fancy Cheese Board - Sweet Dreams Are Made of CheeseFancy Cheese Board

If you’ve ever ordered a cheese board or cheese sampler from a restaurant, you’ve likely had a great experience. Every precisely prepared and positioned cheese variety tastes delicious paired with the perfect fruits, nuts and spreads. Later on, you may find the cheese you loved at the grocery store and bring it home — but somehow it disappoints. Is there a secret ingredient that the restaurant adds, or do cheeses just wilt in the harsh light of reality?

The marketing equivalent to a cheese board is a well-grounded social media specialist. They whip together humor, facts and fodder, post it on your accounts and get people engaged. Sounds easy, right? Anyone can do that! But when you give it a try, it’s rarely as funny, never as engaging, always seems to fall flat. Like randomly tossing cheeses and other non-cheese items together, you may end up with a winning combination once in a while, but without the greater theory behind the cheese board, you end up with just a hodgepodge of coagulated milk.

Fondue

Fondue Fountain with Sulking Skinny ModelIf you love cheese, you probably love cheese fondue. After all, fondue makes it completely acceptable to eat cheese as your main course, and to eat it in large quantities (and, let’s face it, isn’t there a slightly subversive pleasure in knowing you can literally cover any object in cheese?). But there’s the problem. Fondue is so delicious that we often eat more than we should, walking away from the table with a stomach full of regret.

The law of diminishing returns applies to most things in life — certainly to marketing efforts. But strong performance can be like fondue. You become drunk on the gooey goodness of success, and you want more. And more. AND MORE! Put that into an email campaign and you can fondue your way into a high unsubscribe rate.

Chevre

Goats in a TreeTo those who don’t know their cheeses, chevre sounds sophisticated and expensive. But in reality, it’s just goat cheese. In fact “chevre” is a French word that literally translates to “goat.”

Perhaps because naming is such an important part of what we do, marketers love assigning fancy new names to something that existed prior. Omnichannel marketing and infographics are two perfect examples. While both terms are relatively new, neither really brings a new approach to marketing because they existed prior — just with different names. It’s important to realize that having an overhyped name doesn’t necessarily detract from the importance of the underlying thing (goat cheese has its place, and certainly multichannel marketing and infographics are incredibly valuable as well), but being star-struck by fancy words without knowing what they mean can get you into some stinky situations.

Hungry for more? In 2018, for Moldy Cheese Day, we published "And Yet 5 More Things Marketers Can Learn from Cheese."

Ready to Put Your Cheese Lessons to the Test? Contact the team at Digital Media Solutions, and we'll help you refine your cheese board to perfection.

About the Author

Kathy Bryan

Kathy Bryan is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), an industry leader in providing end-to-end customer acquisition solutions that help clients grow their businesses and realize their marketing goals. In this role, Kathy is responsible for all aspects of marketing and communications for DMS and its subsidiary brands. Since its inception, DMS has evolved into a full-service performance marketing company that services firms within highly complex and competitive industries including mortgage, education, insurance, consumer brands, automotive, jobs and careers. DMS has achieved incredible year-over-year growth, which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

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