We will not stop until the world dreams in cheese: Redefining the Wisconsin cheese brand

Suzanne Fanning, Chief Marketing Officer and Senior Vice President, Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin/Wisconsin Cheese

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Abstract: This paper analyses Wisconsin Cheese’s way out of the branding problem it had five years ago. It discusses how Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin decided to rebuild the brand from the ground up. Consumers’ perceptions used to revolve around big, boring blocks of factory cheddar instead of the reality of more than 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese that are made in Wisconsin. The hardest thing a brand can undertake is to go from mass to class. Wisconsin wins more awards for cheese than any other state or country. Needs were identified to build a strong and consistent brand, to be better storytellers to the world and to build authentic relationships with real cheese lovers. With a new logo, new websites, a more creative corporate culture, relationships with Food Fanatics who help drive the speciality cheese marketplace and increased media presence, Wisconsin announced itself, and proved itself, as the State of Cheese. Now, sales of Wisconsin speciality cheese outpace all others in that category, Wisconsin Cheese has more website visitors than ever before, they achieved over US$40m in national and local media mentions in the last year, they have brand ambassadors in all 50 states and are on page one for Google searches for ‘cheese’. This paper details how they did it.


Keywords: Wisconsin; cheese; rebranding; brand; public relations; relationships; branding; marketing; community; word of mouth; social media


Suzanne Fanning is the Chief Marketing Officer of Wisconsin’s US$44-bn dairy industry. Fanning, whose marketing experience spans more than 25 years, brings a unique approach to her work that has revolutionised how consumers think about Wisconsin Cheese. Since assuming her role in 2017, Fanning has built a fierce team of skilled marketers and leads efforts to elevate perceptions of Wisconsin Cheese. She focuses on branding, digital, advertising, public relations, consumer events and channel/retail marketing. Her accomplishments in this role have been numerous as she and her team have set a Guinness World Record and taken home two Gold REGGIE Awards from the Association of National Advertisers in addition to winning Best In Show from the American Marketing Association. Their strategies are quickly catching nationwide attention, and they have racked up over US$50m in earned media coverage with major features on The Today Show, Late Night with Seth Meyers and The Kelly Clarkson Show and in publications such as The New York Times and Food & Wine, Forbes, Fast Company, Entrepreneur, PRWeek and The Chicago Tribune have all praised Fanning’s work throughout her successful career, calling her ‘one of social media’s top movers and shakers’, and ‘one of the world’s best marketers’. She has also been recognised with a People’s award, reserved for professionals who have raised the bar in the food industry.

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