The Role of Brand Voice in Social Media at Chobani

January 5, 2015

ashley butler chobani

“Being one step ahead has been a huge asset to Chobani in the digital space.” As social media strategist for the Greek yogurt giant, Ashley Butler has been around for most of the brand’s meteoric rise. It’s hard to believe that Chobani has only been around since 2007. Ashley tells us about building the brand online and off and the role that digital media has played on this week’s episode of On Brand.

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About Ashley Butler

Ashley Butler is the Social Media Strategist at Chobani (Note: I referenced her previous title of “Brand Voice Manager” on the podcast recording). In this role she manages engagement across all Chobani digital platforms, shaping voice and tone for the brand along the way. Butler edits and produces content on a daily basis. She works on the social strategy for the Greek yogurt brand’s high profile campaigns including the Super Bowl, Oscars, and Olympics. Butler also serves as crisis leader for the entire Brand Communications team, planning for recalls and other high intensity situations.

A self described “passionate social media and digital marketing nerd,” Ashley is seasoned in community building, digital engagement, social content, and has had experience in crisis communications.

When asked what makes her tick she says — writing, social campaigns and disruptive activations, and culture — not just the yogurt kind.

Episode Highlights

How did Chobani get so big, so fast? One day at a time. “As our founder Hamdi (Ulukaya) says, it’s all ‘painting the walls.’ You do it one day at a time.” Ashley also admits that it’s a lot of old-fashioned elbow grease as they don’t have a huge marketing budget when you compare Chobani to giants like General Mills. “We do a lot of 1:1 engagement and influencer outreach.” While it’s not always easy, it’s certainly worthwhile.

Branding is ever-evolving. “The tools we’re using today to build the brand weren’t around just a few short years ago.” You can’t set it and forget it with marketing anymore. Chobani knows this and is constantly testing the content and means of engagement they employ.

What role does branding and brand equity play in times of crisis? “It’s all about trust.” When Chobani made headlines for getting their shipments to the Sochi Winter Olympics blocked (they were also a sponsor of the games), many told them to capitalize on the fact that #FreeChobani was trending on Twitter. After discussing internally, they made the move to not insert themselves into the conversation. “It didn’t feel right.”

However, they did add a popular piece of visual content to protesting Russian’s anit-LGBT laws.

Naturally Powering Everyone

A photo posted by Chobani (@chobani) on

And what about that 2013 recall? “The first thing we did was keep our mantra of 1:1 engagement. The second thing we did was call upon our online influencers.” They tirelessly amplified their core digital strategy and came out of what can be a make-or-break situation for a food brand largely unscathed.

How do you approach aligning your brand with high exposure events like the Super Bowl, Oscars, and Olympics? “You have to figure out what your brand is first and then look at it through the lens of the event. Those three events are very different.” Chobani succeeded in developing very different strategies along with very different metrics for measuring the success of each.

How does Chobani stand out? In an era of “me too” real-time marketing and digital content, Chobani stays unique in a couple of different ways. In reviewing concepts from their agency, Butler and team always ask themselves, “If you insert brand X here would it still work?” If you can easily replace their signature yogurt cup with a “bag of pretzels” it’s not something that’s genuine enough for the Chobani brand voice. For example, they had a pretty unique idea on how to dress up their brand for Halloween.

They also focus on being useful, which is why sharing recipes on Instagram and Pinterest has always been such a big part of their strategy. “I’m thankful to have a really useful product.”

What brand has made Ashley smile lately? Hampton Creek — a food technology company focused on finding new ways of utilizing plants in food products. They’ve done an amazing job of “transcending without fighting,” which is an important factor in the natural foods space.

To learn more about Ashley Butler and her work, follow her on Twitter via the Chobani account or her personal account.

More Chobani at Brand Driven Digital

I made no secret of the fact that I’m a huge fan of Chobani — both as a product and an exemplary brand. Here are some Chobani wins I’ve written about through the years:

A Few Final Reminders

A big thanks to a mentor of this podcast with a new resource that you should know more about. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert has done it again. In addition to being a digital marketing thought leader, speaker, and best-selling author he’s now created a new online resource indexing all of the great marketing podcasts out there — it’s called Marketing Podcasts and you can find it at If you like marketing and podcasts you need to check this out.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!

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is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.