April 24, 2014

Business Blog Case Study: Stonyfield Farm

Posted by: of ExecutiveSummary.com on 12/16/04
Stonyfield

Christine Halvorson has a job title many would enjoy: company blogger. The company in question is Stonyfield Farm, which actually maintains four different blogs. I’ve written about their blogs before and have frequently cited the blogs as an example of a consumer company doing something interesting with blogs. To wit, I wrote Christine the following note a few days ago:

I was on a panel a few weeks ago talking about blogs at AdTech, a conference about online marketing and advertising, and one of my fellow panelists, Nick Denton, publisher of the blog media "empire" Gawker Media, said cynically that he didn’t see the business case for business blogs, particularly for a CPG like a yogurt company (I had cited Stonyfield Farm as an example moments earlier). He asked whether I knew what your traffic was and what benefit you’d seen from it, but of course I had no idea. But I thought they were questions worth following up.

So, with the blessing of her PR director and CEO, Christine graciously answered the following questions in an email interview:

1) What kind of traffic are you getting to your blogs (individually and/or collectively)?

Since we began the five blogs on April 1, 2004, we’ve had a total of 160,000 visitors. (That number combines all five blogs. We actually didn’t begin measuring until June 6.) We have discontinued one of the blogs, so now there are four.  Of those remaining four, the most recent per month visits are:

Strong Women Daily News: 15,603
The Daily Scoop:  4,049
Creating Healthy Kids: 9,659
The Bovine Bugle: 28,237

These have been growing steadily each month.

I like also to measure our [email] subscribers. Even though "subscribing" is not really "blog culture", I like to offer our readers that option. Subscriber numbers to date are:

Strong Women Daily News: 1,701
The Daily Scoop: 129
Creating Healthy Kids: 318
The Bovine Bugle: 276

These, too, have been growing slowly and steadily, with the exception of Strong Women, which has grown dramatically and quickly!

We do have an RSS feed on each blog.

2) What was the thinking behind launching the blogs in the first  place?

Our company has experienced phenomenal growth, and we have a certain "personality" in the world–we care about the environment; about healthy food; about supporting family farms.  With growth, we fear losing touch with what is a very loyal and committed customer base, and so our CEO, Gary Hirshberg, saw the blogs as a way to continue to personalize our relationship with our customers.  He wants to "be real" and saw the blogs as a way to do that–inspired in part by the success of blogs within the Howard Dean presidential bid of early 2004.

3) What is the business rationale? What are you trying to accomplish from a marketing perspective (or otherwise)?

See the above.  Again, we want to maintain a close relationship with our customers. As organics grows to be mainstream, we want to show how our brand is in fact different, and invite our readers/customers in to help us do that and participate with us in our struggles and triumphs, to the extent possible.  Our blogs "continue the conversation" we’ve had with our readers/customers since the beginning in 1987, when we had 7 cows and a great yogurt recipe. Today we produce 18 million cups of yogurt a month!

4) Are you measuring the benefit? If so, how? If not, why not and may you later? When?

We are measuring things like page views, visitors and subscribers.  Much like any public relations effort (and we are part of the public relations department), the "benefit" is somewhat intangible, but we have faith that there is one.  Somewhere out there, we have created a positive response to our brand by virtue of someone reading something that tickles them, or interests them, or inspires them in one of our four blogs. If we gave them a bit of information they wouldn’t otherwise have, or inspired them to an environmental action, or asked them for an opinion–we assume they remember us when they stand in front of the many yogurts in the dairy case at the local grocery store. We assume that relationship, that contact, causes them to reach for our product, not the competitors’, when given a choice.

5) What kind of feedback do you get from readers? I see you have comments open and that you don’t get a lot of comments but you do get some. Is there a consistent tone or refrain from the comments? Do you get feedback about the blogs in other forms? Via email, the phone, in person comments? What do investors, staff, executives, board members think?

We get a lot of comments in the blogs when we raise controversial issues (and we’re trying to do more of that).  We asked once who should be the first female president–that inspired a lot of comments! And we asked what was important to them in the 2004 presidential election. We asked, "Is God male or female" and that was REALLY popular! In The Bovine Bugle, we get a lot of nostalgic comments.  The Bovine Bugle is written by one of the organic dairy farmers who supply us with milk.  He just writes about his daily life, and the challenges and differences with running an organic farm, versus conventional farming.  Many readers will comment about their memories of a childhood on a farm and how they miss it, and how The Bovine Bugle brings back their memories. They also seem to enjoy this glimpse into where their food comes from.  In Creating Healthy Kids, we seem to have inspired a lot of professionals in the nutrition/school food/public policy arena, which is exactly what we wanted, and they have strong opinions on junk food in schools, which is why we started that particular topic of blog.

I often get direct comments to me about how much readers enjoy the blogs.  I don’t think we’ve had a lot of comments to our consumer relations lines about them.  The "blogging community" seems to like what we’re doing also.

6) Is blogging helping sell more yogurt?

See #4 above.  It probably affects someone’s buying decision. The good will generated by the blogs is hard to measure, but we assume it will have a positive impact on our bottom line.

Also, we have a huge website and sometimes our blogs are a great way to highlight some of the web content that might otherwise get lost.  In this way too, we assume we’re steering some blog readers to buy our product, and some to become subscribers to one of our four e-newsletters.   

7) Anything else you’d like to comment about the experience so far?

It’s been a challenge keeping up with 5 (and then 4) blogs, as a one-person operation, but it’s been incredibly fun and I hope more and more readers and consumers find us and participate. We also plan to add another blog after the turn of the year (topic area still confidential).

8) Do you have a sense of repeat readership to the blogs?

It’s hard to measure, except perhaps by the subscriber numbers above. I get folks writing directly to me saying, "I love your blogs. Keep it up." That sort of thing.  I actually had one woman say she was housebound with cancer and looked forward every day to her blog entry coming into her computer!

[See update here]

24 comments for Business Blog Case Study: Stonyfield Farm »

  1. The Stonyfield Farm Business Blog Case Study

    Rick Bruner interviews Christine Halvorson, Stonyfield Farms’ corporate blogger, as part of a broader look at the successful blogging program. He asks Halvorson about site traffic, strategy, business rationale, sales lift and more.

    Trackback by Micro Persuasion — December 16, 2004 @ 4:50 pm


  2. Dairy Blog

    Rick Bruner has an interesting interview here with a small dairy farmer called Stoneyfield Farm about their use of blogs in marketing.

    Trackback by Modern Marketing - Collaborate Marketing Services — December 17, 2004 @ 12:50 am


  3. How Blogging Helps the Yoghurt Company

    Wondering how your company could use blogging? Have a look at Stonyfield Farm, makers of organic yoghurt, and committed bloggers through their four blogs, each of which has its own part of the Stonyfield conversation. (I find the Bovine Bugle a pleas…

    Trackback by Desirable Roasted Coffee — December 17, 2004 @ 3:27 am


  4. Stonyfield Shows Benefits of Corporate Blogging

    When Business Blog Consulting’s Rick Bruner was challenged on an AdTech stage by consumer blogger nonpareil Nick Denton, it got him thinking: just what has been the benefit of the companies publishing interesting corporate blogs? So he started pesterin…

    Trackback by MarketingVOX — December 17, 2004 @ 5:16 am


  5. A business blog case study

    Rick Bruner interviews Christine Halvorson, corporate blogger at Stonyfield Farm. The interview covers the thinking behind launching the corporate blogs, the kind of traffic they generate, and the tangible and

    Trackback by a shel of my former self — December 17, 2004 @ 8:02 am


  6. Hi Rick a.o.

    This is a good story – a good case for Business Blogging. I’m very interested in cases like that – I collect :-)

    Recently I initiated a “Open Sourced Book Project� and if possible I would very much use the case in the book. Any help will be much appreciated.

    The book project is still in framing but together with Fredrik from Corporateblogging.info I,m in the process to “opening up� You could have a sneak view at http://blog.hoejberg.dk/wiki

    Best Regards
    Hans Henrik

    Comment by Hans Henrik — December 17, 2004 @ 8:38 am


  7. The Schwartz is With Them

    Great interview on Rick Bruner’s blog on Stonyfield Farm’s many blogs. Apologies to Rick for the big steal, but here’s the answer to the “Yeah, but what’s the ROI,” question that many are asking about business blogging. We are measuring…

    Trackback by Business Logs — December 17, 2004 @ 8:59 am


  8. A Corporate Example

    Rick Bruner interviews the blogger employed by organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm, which actually maintains four blogs. A good example of how to use blogs to reach diverse audiences with your message.

    Trackback by Blogging for Associations — December 17, 2004 @ 12:33 pm


  9. Got Blog?

    Rick Bruner of Business Blog Consulting has a nice interview with Christine Halvorson, blogger for Stoneyfield Farms. Stoneyfield has four blogs: Strong Women Daily News The Daily Scoop Creating Healthy Kids The Bovine Bugle What I like best about S…

    Trackback by Buzz Marketing with Blogs — December 17, 2004 @ 8:22 pm


  10. Bloggen i företagens tjänst

    I Business Blog Consulting berättar Christine Halvorson om sitt jobb som company blogger på heltid på mejeriföretaget Stoneyfield Farm. Hon skriver i fyra bloggar. Sedan 1 april har de totalt haft 160 000 besökare.

    Trackback by Entreprenorsbloggen — December 18, 2004 @ 7:57 am


  11. Cows can have Blogs, too!

    Rick Bruner has got an interesting post on his blog, Business Blog Consulting, about the blog marketing exploits of organic dairy seller, Stonyfield Farm. Stoneyfield produces quality dairy products, such as yoghurt, which strictly adhere to organic p…

    Trackback by Marketing Tom - Internet Marketing — December 18, 2004 @ 3:52 pm


  12. Business Blog Case Study: Stonyfield Farm

    Rick Bruner has a great case study on Stoneyfield farm (great yogurt btw!) and a follow up that Stoneyfield outranks …

    Trackback by View from the Isle by Larix Consulting — December 18, 2004 @ 4:45 pm


  13. Stonyfield Farms a marketing success in choice of blogs over Web site promotion

    Stonyfield Farms wanted to increase consumer awareness of their yogurt products. They chose marketing blogs, not further Web site work. The result is Stonyfield’s four blogs are generating tens of thousands of visitors a month; the most recent monthly …

    Trackback by Real Lawyers :: Have Blogs — December 19, 2004 @ 9:18 pm


  14. “Please welcome our new company blogger…”

    Rick Bruner has an interesting interview with Christine Halvorson, company blogger at Stonyfield Farms who currently run four different corporate blogs.

    Trackback by PR Opinions — December 20, 2004 @ 1:48 am


  15. Stonyfield Farm : GOT BLOG ?

    Quelques précisions sur le retour d’expérience de Stonyfield Farm,

    Trackback by Web Affinity — December 27, 2004 @ 4:54 pm


  16. For Inhouse Article: Business Blog Case Study by VS

    Dear all,

    Trackback by Offshore outsourcing — December 29, 2004 @ 12:59 am


  17. 7 cows and a great yogurth recipe

    Wie eine amerikanische Joghurt Firma dazu kam, Weblogs zu nutzen. Nicht, weil man einen linksdrehenden (oder waren es rechtdrehende?) zur Verdauung der vermeintlich schwer verdaulichen Blogkost benötigt. Nein. Sondern?

    Die Stonyfield Farm verkauft …

    Trackback by Blogbiz — January 4, 2005 @ 10:44 am


  18. Beginning Blogging Advice

    Browsing the Microsoft’s Small Business Center today I found two useful articles by Jeff Wuorio for beginning bloggers. 5 wa

    Trackback by Software Managers Resource — January 14, 2005 @ 11:40 pm


  19. Radiant Marketing Group- Pro Blog Assoc. Founding

    Paul’s let the cat out of the bag, although I think most of the 20 of us have mentioned our …

    Trackback by View from the Isle by Larix Consulting — January 18, 2005 @ 9:42 pm


  20. Business Blog Case Study

    Rick E. Bruner’s Business Blog Consulting: Consumer Products Christine Halvorson is the company blogger for Stonyfield Farm, which actually maintains four different blogs. She answered some questions about why her company maintains a blog. The most int…

    Trackback by Office Max! — February 21, 2005 @ 4:05 pm


  21. Not sure where to put this comment, but this article is helping a lot to take me where I need to go next. I have re-built our business site based on blogging, as a proof-of-concept to a client. I liked it so much it is now our main site… and hopefully it will catch on.

    Great advice and good site – well done!

    Comment by Stephanie McKern — February 22, 2005 @ 4:28 pm


  22. This article was very interesting and thought it would pertain to the above blog:

    “Stonyfield Farm’s Blog Culture
    The yogurt-maker’s CEO Gary Hirshberg and Chief Blogger Christine Halvorson on how the Web journals connect them to customers

    Stonyfield Farm, 85%-owned by France’s Groupe Danone, is the largest organic yogurt company in the world. Based in Londonderry, N.H., Stonyfield took to blogging in a big way last year — and even hired its own blogger, Christine Halvorson. A former journalist and almanac writer, she landed the job a year ago in March and now authors five blogs for Stonyfield, including Strong Women Daily News and The Bovine Bugle.”

    Comment by Dolores Hatchet — February 1, 2006 @ 8:15 pm


  23. Btw, The article came from:

    http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_18/b3931005_mz001.htm

    Cheers,

    Dolores

    Comment by Dolores Hatchet — February 1, 2006 @ 8:16 pm


  24. I could care less about a company’s ‘blog.’ I’m buying the company’s product, not the ‘blog.’

    As far as Stonyfield Farm’s yogurt is concerned, this from one of their webpages is of most use to the new customer than any ‘blog’:

    Kasi Reddy, Vice President of Stonyfield Research & Development and Quality Assurance:

    “We knew that the majority of American consumers liked sweet and dessert-type products and did not like typically very tart-tasting yogurts. Therefore, we set out to reformulate all our products to be very mild and less tart, so that we could lure non-yogurt consumers to healthy and mild-tasting yogurt products.”

    http://www.stonyfield.com/Aboutus/OurMainMoovers.cfm

    If you like tart-tasting yogurt, don’t get Stonyfield’s.

    Comment by Tried Stonyfield once never again — June 23, 2009 @ 4:13 pm


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