Taking A Lesson From Happy Cows

By Amy Gilroy On Jul 7 2008 - 6:00am

What relation do happy cows bear to car stereo? They may provide a template for raising awareness for an industry.

Happy cows are part of a TV campaign launched by the California milk and cheese industry more than 10 years ago to promote California dairy products. The campaign helped grow the California cheese industry by 80 percent over that span, and the campaign is now taught at Columbia Business School as an example of best business practices.

The California milk and cheese industry spent $40 million last year in TV, print, point of sale and public relations for its campaign to promote California artisan cheeses and other dairy products. One of its themes is "Great cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." Cows appear singing and talking in TV ads and in an upcoming ad, the cows will audition, a la American Idol style, with viewers encouraged to vote for the winner, said the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), located here.

In 2000, the California milk industry spent $17 million on three 30-second spots. Over the past 10 years, 22 happy cow ads have been produced, and the campaign, according to a CMAB spokeswoman, "has been wildly successful." Awareness of the campaign registered recently at 79 percent among women.

One of the happy cow spots about a cow trying to sleep late was ranked as one of the most well-liked TV ads in the country by IAG Research.

California recently started exporting cheese to Mexico, China and other Asian countries, and the industry has launched a "Real California Milk" seal for its products.

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