The Wisconsin Cheese community comprised of cheese lovers from across the nation, called Cheeselandia, won the Grand Champion Award at the American Marketing Association’s Brand Smart Awards in Chicago last week. In addition to taking home the competition’s largest award, Wisconsin Cheese/Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin also claimed the Gold Award for the Influencer Marketing category.
“We wanted to build an authentic movement to unite real cheese lovers worldwide around their passion for great cheese and the incredible experiences it can create,” said Suzanne Fanning, Senior Vice President for Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin and Chief Marketing Officer for Wisconsin Cheese. “We also wanted to shine a spotlight on the stories of the dairy farmers and cheesemakers from across our state who put their heart and soul into these products and are the reason we all came together.”
The Cheeselandia community, which started in February 2018, takes a different approach to “influencer marketing” by focusing on its most passionate fans and the relationships of influence they have with their families, friends and extended communities. Cheeselandia focuses on everyday cheese lovers, who are authentic influencers in their own circles and naturally spread the good word about Wisconsin Cheese both online and offline.
“We’re very impressed with Wisconsin Cheese’s marketing efforts. They use creative and unique strategies to build a story around the great cheeses coming out of Wisconsin,” said Sid Cook, master cheesemaker at Carr Valley. “The Cheeselandia program is particularly exciting because it puts our cheeses directly in the hands of consumers who are truly excited about cheese and sharing that passion with their community. We hope to continue participation in this innovative program, growing our following and hearing the great feedback from participants.”
Innovative marketing is nothing new for the Wisconsin Cheese team, who hosted the most popular lounge in the history of SXSW, a global film, interactive media and design festival that, since 1987, has drawn over 200,000 people each year to Austin, TX. That 2018 “South by South Wisconsin” activation won a Gold Reggie from the Association of National Advertisers. The Wisconsin Cheese team has attracted major media attention as well over the last year with earned features on NBC’s Kelly Clarkson Show, Food & Wine, The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, TODAY Show and more totaling $40 million dollars in just 12 months.
The first formal phase of the community focused on cheese parties in the homes of the cheese lovers. Branded pop-up events in over-indexing markets, including Orlando, Denver, Brooklyn, Boston and San Diego brought thousands of people together over their shared love for cheese. To date, thousands of Cheeselandians have come together both in person and online with their closest friends and family members, and built a community with new friends in celebration of cheese.
Over the last few months, the community has shifted to virtual events by connecting via Zoom and sharing conversation with cheesemakers, as fans remained eager to celebrate their love for cheese and Wisconsin with kindred spirits. Wisconsin holds the official Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest Cheeseboard and now boasts the unofficial title of “World’s Largest Virtual Cheese Party” after the June 25th event that brought together hundreds of cheese lovers from 43 U.S. states, Mexico and Canada. Learn more about Cheeselandia by following @Cheeselandia on Instagram.
Past winners of the Brand Smart Awards include Accenture, Alzheimer’s Association, Barilla America, Hillshire Brands, Hyatt Hotels, McDonald’s USA, MillerCoors, Mondelez International, United Stationers and Walgreens.