Marketing Lessons Learned from the Got Milk? Campaign

Surely an advertising campaign that has its own Wikipedia page has a thing or two to say about marketing.

The highly influential Got Milk? campaign, which last year ended its 20-year reign in magazines and on television, is perhaps one of the most well-known advertising campaigns in American history. It began in 1993 with the collaboration of the California Milk Processor Board and the marketing agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in an effort to boost milk sales in the state of California. By the end of its run in February of 2014, it had media outlets like Adweek calling the “Got milk?” tagline “the most remembered tagline in beverage history.” Why? Here are a few takeaway marketing tactics that might explain.

Choose a Versatile Concept

Only an idea as versatile as the Got Milk? concept has the legs to run for a solid two decades. During its 20 year lifespan, Got Milk? saw hundreds of famous celebrities donning the same iconic milk mustache and asking the same two-word question. And yet the ads never got old to television viewers and magazine perusers. There was always a new celebrity to showcase, a new milk factoid to share, and a new pop culture reference to make.

And then there was the two-word phrase itself, a phrase which over the years has casually found its way to bumper stickers and t-shirts with the word “milk” swapped out for any noun imaginable, from rice and guns to equality and lacrosse. A versatile concept? Most definitely.

Make It Easy to Remember

The “Got milk?” tagline was never far from American minds during the 20-year-long campaign, and it will undoubtedly stay close by for the foreseeable future. Its brevity, coupled with its poignancy as a question, makes for a phrase that will linger in the brain for quite some time. And the milk mustache? It’s a mundane everyday occurrence made into an iconic look, causing every parent who has a child sporting a milk mustache to hearken back to the commercial they saw on television the week prior.

Don’t Just Sell—Influence Culture

Adweek also had this to say about the “Got milk?” tagline: “It is so ubiquitous, in fact, that people don’t think of it as a tagline anymore. It is a piece of culture that was always just … there.” Successful campaigns, then, don’t merely resonate in the minds of consumers for long enough to trigger a purchase; they submerge themselves into the collective subconscious, resurfacing in everyday parlance and even in new marketing campaigns (Got Junk?, anyone?)

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