“Compelling content starts with brand point of view.”

So what could the point of view of a Greek yogurt company possibly be? At the 2015 NewsCred #ThinkContent Marketing Summit, Peter McGuinness, Chief Marketing and Brand Officer at Chobani, shared how the brand has evolved from being just another food product, to one that shares modern American stories.

To do that, however, Chobani took a few years to establish what the brand actually stands for to make sure their storytelling-focused content marketing strategy would be effective.

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Phase 1: Self-discovery

McGuinness explained that from day one, the company was socially driven and grassroots oriented, touting the idea that it didn’t just make yogurt, it was a natural food company. “We are a food company that wants to democratize better options,” said McGuinness. “The better we expressed those beliefs, the better we connected with consumers.”

The brand’s clearly defined point of view was based on four things: DNNA – delicious, nutritious, natural, and affordable. That idea is what helped shape its content early on.

Phase 2: Turning crisis into content success

Just when things were going great for Chobani and its marketing was really taking hold, there was a recall for mold found in some products.

“When it comes to crisis no matter what company you’re from, it’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when,” says McGuinness. In Chobani’s case, people were overloading their phone lines and wanted information. The brand responded by sending personalized letters from CEO Hamdi Ulukaya to the 150,000 people who contacted the company.

“We came out and said we are a human company, and we made a mistake,” says McGuinness. Consumers appreciated that approach so Chobani took it further, sending trucks across the country to find the brand’s biggest fans and throw them a yogurt party, filming it all.

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“In making contact, you can create content. We knew where the recall had happened and where most poeple had a bad product experience, so we went there and gave them free products in a personal way, and created stories around it,” he explained.

Soon after, another PR nightmare resulted after a playful ad ran that stated, “Playing around with mother nature makes our yogurt, not scientists.” Chobani was surprised to find out that it offended the food scientific community. Instead of ignoring the backlash, Chobani hit the road again and went to MIT. “We threw a yogurt party, did some interviews. We turned the whole thing around.”

Phase 3: Making the leap from the product to how it makes people feel

After talking about the high quality natural ingredients in its yogurt, Chobani was ready to create content about the role it plays in its consumers’ lives.  “We couldn’t go there unless we credentialized how we made our products first,” says McGuinness.

They’ve had a lot of success on visual platforms like Instagram, where they take products and create a concept around it. One recent campaign offered a fresh perspective on breakfast. “The idea was if you’re sick of burnt toast and soggy cereal, Chobani will #stopsadbreakfast. People went crazy for it,” he said.

On a more serious note, Chobani has also taken a stance on social matters, such as when it defended LGBT athletes in the Sochi Olympics.

“We came out bluntly and didn’t mince words. After taking that stance, it enabled us to do something socially,” said McGuinness.  Then, when Chobani shipped thousands of cases of yogurt to our athletes, it was held in Newark airport. McGuinness responded with this quote in the New York Times: “I’d like to think that yogurt could have diplomatic immunity.”

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From there, yogurt eaters created the #freechobani hashtag. “It was kind of a gift. Someone else created the content for us. And then everytime someone didn’t win a medal, it was because they didn’t have Chobani,” explained McGuinness. The viral nature of this social media attention even earned a mention on The Colbert Report.

Phase 4: “To love this life is to live it naturally.”

McGuinness shared a sneak peek of the company’s just-launched campaign, describing it as “the intersection of our brand products and consumers lives.”

As far as competition from other yogurt brands go, McGuinness quipped that there hasn’t been much compelling content.  “Competitors are selling gas and bowel movements. Others are selling taste offs, like circa 1975. We’re selling more than that,” says McGuinness.

Being able to create a following of staunch brand loyalists is something that developed over time, but McGuinness admits there’s still a lot of work to be done. “We might be the number one Greek yogurt brand in the U.S., but two-thirds of the country still has never heard of us.”

He’s confident that the new campaign will help introduce new consumers to the Chobani brand. “Through simple slices of life, we’re trying to tell stories in a modern way to elevate the brand and the category.”

Hungry for more? See video of Peter’s presentation and the rest of our #ThinkContent speakers here.