Keeping up With Changing Times Is Critical Part of Checkoff Strategy

  • 4 min read May 18, 2021
  • Marilyn Hershey
  • DMI Chair

The pace of change in our world can feel overwhelming at times. It often requires a lot of focus and energy to keep up with frequent shifts brought on by new technologies and communications.

It’s during these times that I think about my father and how people in his generation also dealt with change. I remember that he accepted things he maybe didn’t agree with or relate to.

Change has always been part of life, and it truly is inevitable. The best option we have as dairy farmers is to be open to it and see it as an opportunity to remain relevant in our fast-paced world.

It’s one of the reasons why I’m grateful our team at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) stays on top of consumer trends and continues to identify places where dairy needs to be. One example is our work with influential gamers. This certainly won’t be a news flash to most of you but I’m not a gamer. However, more than 214 million Americans are, including my children and 90% of Gen Z. So, while I can’t relate to the passion younger people have for gaming, I can understand the checkoff’s direction to use gaming as our pathway to reach them.

Gen Z remains such an important audience for us now and for our future. While many of them are immersed in a virtual world, there will come a day when they are part of a different world with a career and a family. They’ll be making decisions on not only what they will consume but what they’ll feed to their children. Will dairy be a consideration? How do they feel about us now that could influence their decisions later?

As a way of reaching them, we launched a very successful initiative last year with some of the country’s most influential gamers who play Minecraft, the best-selling video game of all time. We introduced four gamers to my dairy farming peers around the U.S. via virtual farm tours where they learned about our sustainable practices and animal care commitments. In turn, they incorporated dairy into their activities and likely were introducing our farm story to many of their millions of followers for the first time.

With National Dairy Month nearing in June, DMI will embark on a similar strategy with new influential gamers, keeping us where we need to be. We will introduce how dairy’s great nutrition package can help gamers be better at their craft with a strategy called “Beat the Lag.” The lag happens when games or gamers themselves slow down. For the latter, we believe dairy can provide a nutritious solution. Our gamers will create their own #BeatTheLag recipe and ask others, including many Gen Z players, to create theirs, too. This will lead to a contest where fans can vote for their favorite dairy-themed recipe, with the winners announced via a live Twitch (a video streaming service for gaming) event. DMI will work with our state and regional teams to amplify this effort.

Dairy MAX, an organization representing more than 900 dairy farm families across eight states, got the ball rolling with gamer nutrition in April through a partnership with the Dallas Cowboys to reach those who participate in esports – an online competition where professional esports athletes play games against each other. Dairy MAX saw how the esports industry recognizes nutrition and its important role in health and used its partnership with the Cowboys to put dairy front and center with the esports community.

Dairy MAX has been named the official nutrition partner of Complexity Gaming, the sister esports team of the Cowboys. Complexity is one of North America’s longest standing esports organizations and the partnership seeks to demonstrate that proper nutrition, including dairy, will extend career longevity of participants and optimize cognitive and physical performance. You can read more details about this exciting work here.

It goes without saying how social media ties into all of this and is so critical for us. Gen Z isn’t reading newspapers or watching the evening news, but they are glued to TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. The accuracy of information related to our dairy farms can be hit or miss on these channels and activist groups are lurking with messages to encourage people to cease dairy consumption.

But we have some fantastic resources to present our side of the story: our own young dairy farmers. While they may have grown up on a farm, they also grew up with social media and can relate to this world better than those in my generation can. What a powerful voice they can be for all of dairy! DMI, along with our state and regional teams, are working with Gen Z farmers to help them share their story in a relatable and visual way. We want to show just how much our farmers have in common with the consumer who didn’t grow up in agriculture.

I think back to National Dairy Month activities from years ago where checkoff staff members passed out samples of milk or some sort of dairy-themed tchotchke. At the time, it was a sound strategy. But then, change happened.

Thankfully, our checkoff strategy changes with the times, too.