How Chobani Got its Start
When I saw the television advertisement for Chobani yogurt, I thought to myself – who needs one more yogurt and that too with a silly name? The name did stick in my mind though, and the advertisement did leave its mark on me. Chobani’s rise to fame before I caught its name on television advertising happened through social media – through blogs and more; through its customers who tasted it and vouched for it. The reason it got stocked on retail shelves was the taste test. Once retailers tasted it, they found it hard to refuse to stock. Its taste was great because, its founder and CEO Hamdi Ulukaya, Turkish by origin, spent a lot of time perfecting it. He felt the US could do with a better tasting yogurt. I have to admit here that I am partial to European yogurts myself (in Europe though, where I have found them tasting a lot better, so much that I actually looked forward to eating it every day!).
Chobani’s Taste and Social Media
Chobani’s taste was slowly derived through focus, use of more milk than its competitors, and hiring a yogurt expert from Greece. The success of this new entrant in a mature market dominated by big names such as Yoplait and Dannon was because of two reasons – making a better product than its competition and pleasing its customers so much that they would be your product spokespeople. The third reason that helped Chobani’s rise to success is the access to “free” social media channels that makes its easier to scale word of mouth. For a young and unknown company with few resources it evens the playing field (somewhat) to go up against its behemoth competitors who had grown comfortable with their success despite a weakness – not such great taste in the Greek yogurt category. See Figure below.
Chobani’s Socially Savvy Strategy
Chobani’s website is quite social savvy. Their social strategy is well integrated with a community oriented marketing strategy that involves sponsorship of fitness events in which they are using their product and Chobani branded t-shirts for additional name recognition. Their website features a series of “guest bloggers.” These are other bloggers who write about nutrition and fitness, again using this as a way to engage influencers and their prospects/customers directly. For its Facebook page, the company uses mostly delectable photographs of Chobani yogurt infused end-products that are hard not to “like” and thus spread the word. The sentiment is generally positive with people from U.S. west coast to Brazil wondering where or when they can get their product closer to home.
Chobani and Competition
Ironically enough, Chobani’s well entrenched and incumbent competitors have European origins as well. Dannon yogurt is owned by a Spanish-French multinational based in France. Yoplait which also has a French origin is actually owned by General Mills with a 51% controlling stake in it. Social media mentions of Chobani compared to the leading competitors Dannon and Yoplait should be a cause for concern for these other well known brands.
As the Figure above shows, Chobani’s competitors have cause for concern, Dannon more so than Yoplait, for its share of mind among consumers. Granted, social media research reveals that not everyone likes the tangy taste of Greek yogurt. I tasted Chobani myself and have to say that Greek yogurt is not for me, although I love yogurt in France. However, I could tell that Chobani’s yogurt has great taste and texture for those who love slightly tangy yogurt. So it is no surprise that those who do are passionate about it. Add to that the fact that this is a segment of young, well-heeled, and educated and a cup of Chobani as one of the tweets put it “has 16 grams of protein and its like 6 oz holy cow #mindblown,”…packing a protein punch and low calories with taste.
Lessons from Chobani’s Success
There are several lessons for companies around Chobani’s success:
• Social media evens the playing field a lot more for smaller competitors – provided they have a superior product (Chobani is only five years old)
• Chobani’s use of social media is very effective – using mostly fantastic photographs on Facebook, Instagram, and community engaging and oriented blogging.
• Social media metrics can tell you a lot more about the competition quite quickly. Chobani’s competitors have cause for concern when they are losing share of mind in a category that is growing – Greek yogurt.
•While Chobani might have got its start and acceleration from social media, its television advertising led to so much demand that it had to stop advertising. That says how much television too still has a role to play.