Why the ‘got milk?’ campaign worked

I was pretty young when the ‘got milk?’ campaign launched, so I remember more about the celebrity milk mustaches than anything else. In reading for my branding class, I learned how the first ‘got milk?’ campaign was not only a runaway success, but accomplished a pretty difficult branding challenge – branding a commodity.

The ‘got milk?’ campaign was created in the 1990’s to renew the interest in an existing product – milk. The point of the campaign was to find a new way to market milk. People already knew about the health benefits, and milk itself wasn’t combating a negative image – rather, it was trying to fix a backslide in sales. The campaign built milk’s image by imaging a world where milk no longer existed in certain common scenarios (milk and cookies, milk and cereal). The campaign underscored this creative by running advertisements in a variety of media during the times people were most likely to think about drinking milk – breakfast, afternoon snack and late night snacking (Keller Case, 39). This combination of creative work and media buying really made the most of the campaign.

The campaign  effectively positioned milk as a brand. Originally the target market was California residents, but the campaign was expanded to a national and global level (Keller Case, 40). In both stages the campaign focused mainly on stressing milk’s points of difference (Keller Text, 107). You can’t dunk a cookie into a glass of soda, or use water on your cereal and get the satisfaction you receive when using milk.  The campaign was well timed by first reminding consumers about milk’s unique taste and following up with health benefits. Had the campaign focused on the health benefits first, consumers may have found other drinks that could supplement those needs (orange juice with calcium, for example.) The surge in milk consumption and the sheer popularity of the campaign prove its success.

So, the question for your brand is – what do you offer that no one else does? What does your company offer that people can’t live without? How can you use that in your branding?

Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring and Managing Brand Equity (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.
Keller, Kevin Lane. (2008). Best Practice Cases in Branding: Lessons from the World’s Strongest Brands (3rd edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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