By Douglas B. Holt, L'Oreal Professor of Marketing, University of Oxford
What could you say about milk? It was white and came in gallons. People felt they knew all there was to know about it, so it was hard to find a strategic platform.- Jeff Manning
In June 1993, Jeff Manning, Executive Director, was hired by the
California Milk Processor Board
(CMPB) to revive sagging milk consumption in California. A month later, he hired San Francisco adagency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners to create a new ad campaign for milk. "We weren't going toturn around a 15-year decline in per capita in one year, but we did believe that at least for certainportions of the population, we could flatten it out and start to move it up," said Manning. FollowingManning's lead, Jeff Goodby, the agency's co-founder and chief creative, had worked with a team of planners and creatives at his agency to create got milk?, a campaign that became one of thedecade's most popular and critically-acclaimed ad campaigns. (1)
CMPB: Marketing Milk as a Commodity
Concerned with long-term declining milk sales, California's largest milk processors voted to fund amarketing board that would be charged with creating advertising dedicated to selling milk. Theprocessors agreed to finance the California Milk Processor Board (2) by contributing three cents forevery gallon of milk they processed. This assessment allowed for a $23 million/year marketingbudget. On a per-capita basis (California's population was roughly 20% of the US), this budgetapproximated those of the largest national auto, beer, finance, and pharmaceutical brands. Theprocessors agreed that they would assess the new board's effectiveness every three years, As theirfirst act, the board had hired Manning and he reported to CMPB's board of nine representatives.Prior to the CMPB's formation, the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB), had for many yearsproduced the "Milk Does a Body Good" ad campaign. The campaign echoed the government'snutrition program, which encouraged people to drink a few glasses of milk each day to maintaintheir health. As Manning took over, consumers evidently still believed that milk was nutritious."Ninety-three or -four percent of the people already said milk was good for you," Manning recalled."And 90% said it had calcium, and a fair percentage said that calcium helped prevent osteoporosis.The problem was that the old ads didn't change consumers' behavior." Consumers-and especiallykids and teens-still considered milk to be as boring as a beverage could possibly be. Since peoplethought milk was good for them but sales volume was falling anyway, Manning felt that his firstdecision was handed to him: he would abandon the nutrition theme.
Shifts in Beverage Consumption
Perceptions of MilkHistorically, dairy advertising and public relations efforts, along with government programs, hadhelped to build the widely held belief that drinking milk was the key to good health, particularly forchildren. Drinking milk linked the consumer to the dairy farms out in the rural countryside, a spaceimplied to be healthier, both morally and hygienically. Later, this "wholesome" theme was expanded
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