October 16, 2018
Joining us on the Marketing Mix podcast with Jeff Ragovin in Hannah Robbins, CMO at Maple Hill Creamery. Hannah talks competing with big brands and the importance of micro-influence, transparency and consistent messaging in today's marketing environment. With an impressive runway of marketing leadership at Walgreens, Kraft and Sara Lee, Hannah Robbins discusses narrowing down a core consumer base and the most effective ways of tapping into them using today’s digital technologies.
Jeff Ragovin: The consumer packaged goods space is extremely competitive. As a new brand, how does Maple Hill differentiate itself?
Hannah Robbins: It starts with our founding family, which is the Josephs and the Mac's, and their vision to have the pinnacle of the best dairy possible which is all organic and from 100% grass fed cows. That mission has been at the forefront of everything that we've done. We have the largest network of 100% grass fed farms in the United States, which are all based in upstate New York, and the viability of those farms is incredibly important to what we do. For a marketer it's really a dream because we are transparent from farm to cup, and so being able to carry that out in our marketing programs and our programs with retailers has really been an outstanding privilege.
Jeff Ragovin: You've been at Kraft, Sara Lee and Walgreens over the last 20 years. What made you come over to Maple Hill?
Hannah Robbins: Working with companies such as Kraft and Walgreens was an outstanding experience and I really learned how to run a business, how to work with small budgets, large budgets and marketing campaigns. Being able to work for a brand like Maple Hill which is 100% transparent in everything we do is an absolute privilege and honor to be a part of. What we're doing is we're taking the lessons, the expertise and the cadence that we've had working in the big food brands and applying those principles to an up and coming brands such as Maple Hill.
Jeff Ragovin: What are some of the biggest challenges you face in producing a loyal customer base?
Hannah Robbins: That's always a challenge whether you're a big brand or and up and coming one. Our core consumer is a millennial mom, and the millennial mom is is on a journey of always looking for what is best for her family. This Millennial mom generally has younger children ages zero to six and she is willing to make choices and tradeoffs in her life in terms of other discretionary income to spend more money on the best products she can for her family. Consumers are really looking at who these brands are, where they make their products and where do they come from. We just went through a recent whole new packaging refresh and we actually now show on our packaging one of our Maple Hill cows. We can actually go back and say “This cow on this farm is making your yogurt or your milk.” That's pretty compelling.
Jeff Ragovin: Is there a specific marketing campaign that you guys have done in the last six months that you've particularly loved?
Hannah Robbins: Yes, and that actually has been our work that we've recently done with Social Native. We ended up getting the most incredible imagery of the sweetest children across the United States with Maple Hill products. Now we're featuring this user-generated content created and placing it on our national packaging, which is sort of a reverse of what you might expect. You might think you're going to go out and find children and do a photo shoot, and it really turned out to be the opposite. It is a much more organic way of doing it.
Jeff Ragovin: What did you learn from your earlier campaigns?
Hannah Robbins: We learnt that having the children really interacting with the product itself is far more visually effective. The first time the children were holding the carton either in a store or at home, but we really wanted to see more transparency from farm to cup in this imagery, so what we've evolved to is having the kids drinking a glass themselves or eating a spoonful of the yoghurt, and that provides even more relevancy to moms.
Jeff Ragovin: What's your biggest mistake and what did you learn?
Hannah Robbins: If I aggregate a whole bunch of mistakes over a long period of time, one of the things I've learned is to make sure what we are doing is relevant to the person we're talking to. There's so much technology, that the biggest challenge a brand faces is producing consistent messaging over and over again.
Jeff Ragovin: Are you leveraging micro influencers to tap into relevant consumers?
Hannah Robbins: A body of research we studied said that over 60% of people's decisions are made from a referral from friends and family. Our ability to connect with consumers on a micro level and being able to pass along value from friends and family is absolutely paramount to what we're doing. That's one of the reasons why our work with Social Native is so successful. We've grown up in a society where people can see through things, and so being relevant and authentic has been something that's been at the at the forefront of this brand and this company from the very beginning.
Jeff Ragovin: What you were like in high school?
Hannah Robbins: I was on the soccer team, I performed in a dance company and I did student government, but I definitely liked to have fun too. I wasn't just all about my studies. When I started in sixth grade everybody thought I was a teacher on the first day.
Jeff Ragovin: What do you think about when you're in the car by yourself?
Hannah Robbins: It's interesting because I actually don't listen to music when I drive. I tend to reflect on my day or reflect on what's happening or what's coming up. I tend to think about think about the ways that I can deal with day ahead and think about ways that I can get ahead of something, but usually I'm just reflecting.
Jeff Ragovin: How would you describe the color yellow to someone who is blind?
Hannah Robbins: I would say that the color yellow is made to make people smile. The color yellow gives you joy. The color yellow smells like the flowers that come up in the spring. The color yellow could smell like after a spring rain. I would say this the color yellow is a warm color. It's an inviting color. It's a "I want to give you a hug" color.
Jeff Ragovin: What is your favorite food of all time?
Hannah Robbins: For me that's super easy. I'm originally from Maine. I love New England. I love everything about the New England coast and it's lobster prepared at a lobster shack and eaten at picnic table off of a tray or on paper with a paper plate with a corn on the cob and butter.
Jeff Ragovin: Thank you for joining the Marketing Mix Podcast.
Please note, the above has been paraphrased for editorial purposes