Gay Lea builds its direct strategy by reaching out to bakers hungry for inspiration

The dairy co-op premiumizes its outreach to facilitate creativity in a growing community.

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Gay Lea’s experiential strategy has evolved “drastically” this holiday season, as it’s gone from popping up at individual Christmas markets across Canada to sending baking kits directly to consumers.

That’s according to the dairy co-op’s marketing director Robert London, who says that the latest effort, “#BakeItForward,” is another direct program built around fostering connections and the joy of baking together.

Gay Lea Foods is giving away baking kits to 1,400 people across the GTA, representing the 1,400 farms with which it works, skewed towards deserving residents like frontline health care and grocery workers. It comes with everything they need, from decoration and gift wrap to Gay Lea’s European-inspired specialty butter, Bakers Gold.

The campaign is an extension of the spring “Bake Happy Together” campaign, which got baking kits into the hands of first responders.

“When we originally delivered baking kits to residents and frontline grocery workers back in May, we did it as a way to alleviate the shortage of baking supplies, while also giving people something to do as they adjusted to our new normal,” London says. Now, it is more about showing families and individuals that baking can bring a lot of joyfulness not just to themselves, but to anyone they gift their creations to.

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In addition to encouraging bakers to share treats using the campaign hashtag, Gay Lea is launching social media content that will tell the stories of some of the bakers who receive the kits. London says encouraging online sharing helps amplify the sense of community around an already active group of people who love to bake, while also inspiring their creativity.

“We are just providing the ingredients…the consumer is the creator,” London says.

In the summer, Gay Lea also turned downtown Toronto green spaces into baking “Puzzles in the Park,” with kits containing baking-themed challenges deposited in socially distanced painted circles.

The baking kits feature Gay Lea’s latest SKU, Bakers Gold, part of a premium lineup that also includes Farm House Organic and Unsalted. London says this lineup “elevates the butter experience” with organic source ingredients and higher fat content, which differentiates it against the likes of Lactancia and are well-suited to the indulgent season.

In an adjacent category, margarine player Becel is looking to make inroads in the traditional butter space with plant based “bricks,” a priority SKU meant for baking, with a campaign that also emphasizes the camaraderie of holiday baking.

“What we bring with regards to our new butter and innovation, is real ingredients that are tried and true to give you the products you need and outcomes for your baking,” London says. He adds that Gay Lea is a leader in the Ontario market, and that continuing to innovate in the segment will bring more eyeballs.

In previous holiday campaign efforts Gay Lea also sought to connect via cookies, both digitally (“24 Days of Baking”) and IRL, by driving a Christmas truck around the GTA and handing out milk and cookies. This year, like many CPG brands, it is pivoting away from both experiential and shopper marketing programs because of the current environment.

Chalkboard did the creative for the campaign, while Purpose Ink is handling public relations.