A decade ago, Hamdi Ulukaya started Chobani with five employees. Today the company is more than 2,000 employees strong, with national distribution across the U.S. To celebrate its first 10 years, on February 12th Chobani kicked off its biggest campaign to date—a massive giveaway inviting Americans to try one of its yogurt-based items for free.
Running through March 4th, the three-week event celebrates the brand’s 10th anniversary with an integrated marketing campaign that will encourage sampling and awareness that it’s expanding beyond Greek yogurt. As Chief Marketing, Commercial & Demand Officer Peter McGuinness puts it:
10 years ago, Chobani pioneered a category with a simple idea: better food for all people. We’ve grown from 5 people to more than 2,000 and each year we’ve had the honor of bringing our delicious, nutritious, natural, and affordable food to millions of people. And we’ve made some mistakes, had some fun and done a lot of good along the way. This was the seed that grew up to become who we are today. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we want to pay our success forward and say “thank you” to everyone who’s helped us throughout our journey. That’s why we’re offering free Chobani yogurt to everyone in America.
Campaign elements include:
• whimsical TV spots developed by the brand’s in-house creative team
• customized seven-second digital animations for local markets:
• a one-day, multi-sensory, socially shareable experience at Grand Central Terminal in New York City (at top)
• a special Alexa skill/command enabling Amazon Prime subscribers to verbally order a free yogurt coupon
• an internal brand engagement piece, inviting Choban employees across the U.S. to serve as brand ambassadors.
McGuinness (right) shared a few insights from the road while traveling across the U.S. for the campaign’s kick-off week:
Peter, tell us about the 10th anniversary campaign and how you’re celebrating at the national and local level?
This is a proud moment for Chobani. We’re not an anniversary type of company but we wanted to do something to celebrate this milestone. What better way to celebrate than to say thanks to our fans who have been with us from day one, and welcoming new ones into our family, so that even more people have the chance to discover the magic of delicious, natural, and nutrient-dense Chobani yogurt for themselves? That’s why we’re giving a free cup of yogurt to everyone in America for now until March 4.
As part of this offer, we’re partnering with No Kid Hungry to donate our yogurt to children in need across the country. We’re also engaging our employees to help share our yogurt with the communities of their choosing. Additionally, we’re going deep with each of our retailers through local TV tagging, store demos and signage.
How are you measuring consumer sentiment around the new branding introduced in November, and is it expanding?
Our fans are very passionate and vocal so we always hear from them first. So as far as the branding goes—so far, so good. Feedback ranges from beautiful, amazing, cool, fun and unique. And our retailers agree. They believe that our new look brings specialness back to the category – which has been crowded with sameness for a few years now. Our new packaging is making our products stand out on shelf, in addition to allowing the brand to visually stand out due to its thicker letterforms.
What’s the strategy around becoming more purpose-driven, especially at the local level?
It’s less about becoming and more about solidifying what we’ve always stood for. As a company, we’ve always put our people and our communities first. At Chobani, we want to inspire a new way of doing business. Business is a force of good. In today’s day and age, winning in business and doing good are no longer and don’t have to be at odds. They can be mutually inclusive.
Where are you at on the journey to become a ‘food-focused wellness company’ — and do you hope to be known for more than yogurt in your second decade?
We want our next decade to be even more impactful than the first. The last decade taught us that our natural yogurt is a great product; but wellness is our business. Our evolved positioning doesn’t change our original mission but shifts our focus from what we make to the impact it has on people. A “total yogurt company” today, we continue to invest in our products, our communities and our sustainability efforts so that everything we do helps make universal wellness happen that much sooner.
Tell us about how you refocused your marketing team around demand creation and broke down silos last year?
Late last year, we took a big step toward the goal of becoming #1 in yogurt manufacturer and creating a modern food company, making changes to our structure aimed at maximizing growth opportunities and making us more connected. What was previously known as sales, marketing, insights and product development is now the Demand Department. This change is significant and will radically transform what we make, sell and market and will give us the edge we need to win. We proactively put in place a pioneering new structure to take full advantage of the changing and evolving world of retail, and I now oversee one unified team that is all centered around driving demand.
Unlike many CPG incubator programs out there, our incubator program is equity-free and has no strings attached. Participants receive a $25,000 grant and full access to our leadership team and resources.
For us, it’s all about paying forward our success to entrepreneurs who share our mission of better food for all people. We want to take on the broken food system and through the Incubator program, we are creating a community of companies who can help us do just that.
Last summer, we decided to bring this program to Australia. We partnered with Monash University and the Food Innovation Centre (FIC) to create the most robust incubator program in the country. By combining our expertise in sales, marketing and customer engagement with the FIC’s facilities to support new product development, innovation, and quality, our program will help start-ups improve Australia’s food industry. The first class just began on February 5th and will run through May.
You’re once again sponsoring Team USA and sending yogurt to the Winter Olympics; anything you’re doing differently from past Olympics?
This Olympics, we’re being more focused and efficient with how we support the games as it coincides with our 10-year anniversary. We’re still supporting the athletes both on and off the playing field but focusing more on the experiential component of the Games.
We’ll have a presence at USOC’s Winterfest activations in Lake Placid (Feb. 24) as we did in Park City (on Feb. 10). Our sampling vehicles are at both events, with employees from both of our plants attending. In support of the games, we’re sending a variety of product to our friends, fellow Olympic partners, and athletes to enjoy on-site.
Where do you see Chobani in 10 years’ time?
Over the last decade, we’ve grown to become the No. 1-selling Greek Yogurt brand in America (and second largest yogurt-maker overall). There’s never been a more exciting time to be a food company. For ten years we’ve contributed in our small way to this important vision. For the next ten, we want to do it more significantly, and in a way that we uniquely can, due to our scale, position, and resources.
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