In the 1990s, the United States knew major shifts in beverage consumption. Sales of Milk were dropping, because they were impacted since 1970, by the huge and aggressive marketing campaigns of Soft Drinks companies, that succeeded in taking milk’s place in people’s lives and stomachs. 

The milk industry and NGOs promoted the product’s benefits. Their campaigns focused more on the calcium and protein benefits, and how drinking milk can help people have healthy bones and strong muscles. Milk was promoted as a nutritious and necessary drink, especially for children. The campaign was under the name of “Milk Does a Body Good”.

On the opposite side, the soft drinks industry was taking another approach. They associated their carbonated drinks with youthful lifestyles and having fun. Coca-Cola and Pepsi positioned soda as fun to consume and even offered beneficial and diet drinks, and also caffeinated energy, in beautiful packaging. As a response, Milk companies continued insisting that milk is healthy. However, this technique was no longer effective.

People knew that milk is beneficial for them and their health, but they didn’t care anymore, because they saw it as a boring product. Milk is not new, it is not improved, and the message remained the same over the years. Consumers substituted milk with sodas like Coke and Pepsi, especially kids. 

You always hear and read, either in books, websites, or even Learn N’ Digital, that using benefits in content writing and copywriting is the most important formula, and generates conversion more than only talking about features of your product. The milk’s situation may cause you a little questioning concerning the efficiency of using Benefits and triggering the audience’s emotions. 

We assure you that using benefits over features with B2C is very effective, and it remains one of the best writing techniques. When we use emotions, it’s not always just positive emotions. That’s what we will discover with Got Milk’s Case study. We will get to know their clever technique of using people’s emotions in another way. 

How Did “Got Milk?” Campaign Start?

In 1993, California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), a nonprofit marketing board funded by California dairy processors, and administered by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, hired Jeff Manning as an Executive Director, to find a solution to increase milk’s consumption. He was convinced that he can’t change the 15-year decline in a year. 

He needed an advertising agency to help him, so he contacted Goodby Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco. To raise awareness, and also sales of cow’s milk. The agency did some qualitative research and had an important result. People who drank milk use it as an accompaniment to sweet and sticky foods, like brownies, cookies, corn flakes, peanut butter sandwiches, or coffee. They linked milk with sweet and sticky snacks. 

Jeff Manning asked a fundamental question, that was the start of a successful campaign that lasted 21 years old. Jeff thought about this food-beverage connection and asked how people would feel when they’re eating something that needed milk to be able to swallow it but didn’t have milk in the house? To have an answer, they decided to have focus-groups. They did an experiment inside the company, and removed all milk from the firm’s refrigerator, and installed a hidden camera at the back of it to capture people’s reactions when they didn’t find milk. The primary response was being upset and deprived. It created frustration because they were not able to have a proper breakfast because there was no milk, and any other beverage couldn’t replace it.  

The Marketing Strategy Used in “Got Milk?”

Did their strategy start to be clear for you now? They used a strategy of Deprivation. This strategy was born with this campaign. 

Deprivation Marketing is a technique where you make consumers feel deprived of a product or service to understand its benefits and value. The feelings of Deprivation affect consumer behavior. This strategy is only used when the product is generic and doesn’t have substitutes or competitors.

For Got Milk’s campaign, the deprivation strategy focused on the anxiety and disappointment that came when milk wasn’t available. It showed how all food paled in taste without it.

Got Milk? Print Ad
Got Milk? Print Ad

Their campaign was a series of print ads that portrayed different foods like chocolate cupcakes and cookies with a bite taken out of them, and the ad was accompanied by a text saying “Got milk?” To make people feel uncomfortable imagining themselves, eating something sweet that needed milk to swallow it. They then launched many commercials on tv with the same idea.

For people who don’t know how the “Got Milk?” tagline was created, during the meeting when they were planning for focus-groups, someone asked Goodby what he would like to call this meeting. Goodby said he didn’t know but since it’s about running out of milk, why not write ‘Got milk?’ The sentence was so simple and “grammatically incorrect, but it was used as a Tagline, and campaign name.

Two years after the success of this campaign, and when people realized the importance of milk, the agency and Jeff, wanted more, they tried to beat the other beverages campaigns that associated soft drinks to being fun and youthful. They had the objective of showing that drinking milk is cool. In 1995, they launched another campaign with the same tagline, but with a different slogan, which is “Where’s your mustache?”.  

They decided to work with most celebrities, athletes, models, and fictional characters. Many famous people took part in this campaign with a milk mustache, like The Rock, Jennifer Aniston, David Beckham, Angelina Jolie, Beyonce, Spider-Man, Simpsons, and many more.  

The idea was to sell milk by associating it with food, and celebrities, to show its importance, and to show younger people that even their idols and favorite people drink milk. 

This campaign was running since 1993, until February of 2014, and was considered as one of the most well-known and successful advertising campaigns, with the most remembered tagline in beverage history. During the two decades, more than 70 commercials and 350 milk mustache ads were released. 

Case Study’s Takeaways

The key takeaways from this campaign are: 

  • When your ad is not effective, change it, or completely change the public perception of your product.
  • You need to listen to your audience and pay attention to new market entrants. 
  • Benefits and Deprivation have a common point: Listening to people, and their pain points. 
  • When we use emotions in writing, it’s not always good or positive emotions. They can be negative to make people realize the product’s importance.
  • Don’t stick to one way of writing commercials, posts, and ads. Learn different ways, to not make people feel bored, and know what you have to say before listening to you. Other formulas can make the same feature or benefit sound like new.  
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