Chobani goes beyond ‘cause marketing’ with a ‘no strings attached’ donation to Operation Homefront
“We have a lot of veterans here at Chobani and a lot of veterans who work in our factories and plants,” and we wanted do something to recognize this “important group of people who have given back to their country more than anyone,” said Peter McGuinness, chief marketing and commercial officer for Chobani. “They have given their lives. They have given their time. And they are putting themselves in danger that takes them away from their families – all for their country. This is the ultimate amount of selflessness."
And yet, he told FoodNavigator-USA, all too often returning members of the armed forces or their families struggle to put food on the table or make ends meet – a “heart wrenching” reality “that should not sit right with anyone in America.”
To help address this need, veterans at Chobani created a “Hero Batch” four-pack of “Red, White and Blueberry” vanilla Greek yogurt with mixed berries on the bottom. The desert camo packaging also features front and center the logo for Operation Homefront, a national non-profit that serves America’s military families.
Taking cause marketing to the next level
In addition to launching the SKU to build awareness around the struggles of veterans and how Operation Homefront is helping them, Chobani is also raising funds for the non-profit by creating a donation page for Operation Homefront at www.chobani.com/herobatch. To encourage shoppers to donate, Chobani pledges to match the first $250,000 to raise $500,000.
In addition, Chobani pledges to donate independently $500,000 to Operation Homefront, bringing the potential total to $1 million.
While it is common for companies these days to donate to a percentage of profits to charities or embrace cause marketing, Chobani’s donation is unique in that it does not depend on product sales.
“We wanted this donation to have no strings attached. We said if we were to hinge it all on people purchasing this product, it wouldn’t feel right. It would feel like we were bribing people to buy the yogurt, and that doesn’t feel right to us,” McGuinness said. “We said, if we are going to donate up to $750,000 on the road to raising $1 million, we wanted to do that irrespective of how many units we sell.”
While the product launch no doubt will generate sales for Chobani and likely will elevate how some shoppers view the company, McGuinness stressed that “this is not some kind of advertising campaign or stunt to trick people into buying it.”
He added: “We want people to buy this product because they believe in Operation Homefront and believe veterans are important and believe in the food being unique and delicious. And then, once they’ve bought it, if they want to go online to www.chobani.com/herobatch, they can donate as little or as much as they want. So, there is no pressure.”
In fact, McGuinness said, Chobani will not track the number of Hero Batch units sold as a way to measure the success of the one-year long campaign.
Instead success will be measured based on “how many veterans and their families we are able to get good food to” through the nutrition assistance program at Operation Homefront, he said.
The company also will measure the success of the program based on “internally how people feel about it, and our plant workers and our vets. We want this to be a prideful thing and people to be energized and excited about this and trying to help veterans.”
And finally, he added, the program’s success will be measured based on retailers’ enthusiasm for the stocking the product to help raise awareness.
“Our retail partners’… enthusiasm has been unbelievable and their excitement to put it on the shelf and in some cases make their own donations as well as doing things to augment the program, has been wonderful and really created a snowball effect,” McGuinness said.
A new platform for good
While the Hero Batch is a limited edition product, currently planned for sale for a year, McGuinness said that the approach Chobani is taking to raise awareness and funds in addition to donating could be a “new platform of good food, doing good for people and the planet,” that the company could leverage in new ways going forward.
It also is a way to “bring some excitement into the yogurt and dairy” categories, which currently are bogged down with “SKU proliferation, SKU duplication, sweepstakes, giveaways and promotions on top of promotions on top of promotions,” McGuinness said.
He added that unlike those efforts, “it is nice to put something out there that is beautiful food, beautiful packaging and a beautiful cause,” and not expect anything in return.