Meet Cathy, the Cooperative Development Institute’s new answerwoman! She can take on any co-op questions you might have, big or small. Today we address the question: “What are the benefits of marketing ourselves as a cooperative?” See all of Cathy’s answers and ask your own on her home page.
This is a guest column by Roberta MacDonald. Senior Vice President of Marketing, Cabot Creamery Cooperative.
What sets companies like Cabot and other co-ops apart from their competitors? The Seven Cooperative Principles and how we put them into practice. They serve as our guiding light. They open doors by empowering us to think differently.
At Cabot Creamery Cooperative, we believe that that co-ops should work together; this principle has defined all we have been living since our cooperative was formed in 1919. The 1,200 farm families who make up our co-op embrace the ideals of community, democracy and local ownership, and we support the places where our families and consumers live and do business. Our owners serve on school boards and select boards. They volunteer in many ways – as firefighters, planning commission members and environmental cleanup participants, among other needed roles.
We understand that our co-op doesn’t work alone, so we partner with other cooperatives, such as credit unions, food, housing and electric co-ops with whom we share these principles and values in many of our promotions. We have collaborated with national co-ops, like the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), as well as local co-ops and credit unions. In 2012, we hosted the first-ever Vermont State Cooperative Summit to bring together cooperative members to let statewide candidates to share their intentions and appreciation for cooperatives before elections.
Principle 6 isn’t just an ideal at Cabot-Cooperation Among Cooperatives is something that informs all that we do. Not only do we believe that co-ops serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together, but we know that the opportunities for cross-marketing are infinite with these partnerships. Cabot’s initial growth into the south would not have been as successful without the indelible connections the electric co-ops and credit unions made for us with their members. Cabot coupons were included in statements and newsletters. We still offer gift baskets for annual meetings and distribute cents-off coupons to credit unions in new markets. We could not have asked for a better introduction to like-minded consumers.
Let Cabot show you how to connect and support your local cooperative businesses. In the last year, we have cooperated with other co-ops in a variety of ways, such as:
- National Cooperative Bank became a sponsor of Cabot’s Reward Volunteers program, honoring their employees and volunteers across the US and helping them to earn prizes while volunteering in their local communities.
- In the summer of 2014, Cabot hosted members of NCBA and the Northern Virginia Chapter of the Virginia Credit Union Association to discuss how cooperatives can work together to achieve their goals. This celebration was part of Cabot’s 2014 Community Tour, which traveled from Florida to New York to celebrate the communities that local co-ops serve.
- We have supported local housing and worker co-ops in Buffalo, New York as they form a ‘think tank’ of local cooperatives to be able to harness their efforts collaboratively.
- Cabot cooperated at a Member Appreciation Day at a local credit union in Augusta Georgia, where members could win a Cabot Legacy Cheddar gift box when they visited their local branches during National Co-Op Month.
- We provided a healthy post-race snack to DC residents who lace up their running shoes and participate in The Cooperative Development Fund’s 5k.
These are just some examples of how you can put your Principle 6 into action. There are so many ways to connect and cross market with other co-ops. As a credit union, create a lobby sign identifying other co-ops in your area. As a housing co-op, highlight a local co-op in your member newsletter. As a food co-op, highlight items you carry that are produced by other co-ops. Cabot joined forces with the Neighboring Food Co-op Association in New England to create a Go Co-op label to be used in stores to identify those items produced by a cooperative.
We partnered with ShopRite to create a Co-op Harvest campaign, where cooperatives, such as Cabot and Florida’s Natural, were highlighted in local circulars. When you cross market with other co-ops, everyone wins.
Local communities also benefit when cooperatives join forces. When co-ops team up to promote local business, it leads to a strong local economy..a win for all local businesses. The benefits of putting your Principle 6 into action are limitless!
If you would like to cooperate with Cabot Creamery Cooperative, visit our website to learn how.
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