Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The iconic ‘Got Milk?’ campaign returns as shoppers flock back to the beverage

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: The iconic ‘Got Milk?’ campaign returns as shoppers flock back to the beverage

Related tags Soup-To-Nuts Podcast Milk Dairy

After years of declining sales, dairy milk is on the rise again thanks in part to the coronavirus driving a resurgence of baking, cooking and eating at home, but to keep the momentum going during and after the pandemic, industry stakeholders are reviving the iconic and wildly successful ‘got milk?’ campaign.

The original campaign, which was the brainchild of the San Francisco-based advertising firm Goody, Silverstein and Partners for the California Milk Processor Board, dominated the public conscious in America in the 1990s. Thanks to a whopping 70 television commercials and 350 print ads featuring milk mustaches on celebrities during the campaign’s 20 year tenure, an estimated 80% of all US consumers daily were confronted with the question: Got Milk?

And now the Milk Processor Education Program, or MilkPEP is bringing the iconic campaign to a new generation of milk drinkers with help from influencers, including swimmer and US Olympic Gold Medalist Katie Ladecky, and every day milk-users who love the beverage.

To find out more about how the ongoing pandemic has inspired and influenced both milk consumption and the new campaign, MilkPEP CEO Yin Woon Rani joins FoodNavigator-USA for this episode of Soup-to-Nuts podcast​. She shares what is driving milk consumption, how the group is bringing new meaning and relevance to the revamped Got Milk? campaign and how the campaign is tapping user generated content to develop new creatives while social distancing continues to cramp more traditional methods.

[Editor’s Note: Never miss another episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Soup-To-Nuts Podcast – subscribe on iTunes​.]

Building on milk’s surging sales during the pandemic

Three years after the first Got Milk? campaign debuted, Americans drank an average of 24 gallons of milk per year, according the USDA. By 2018, four years after the campaign ended, consumption had dropped to 17 gallons for a variety of reasons, including the proliferation of plant-based options among others.

But with the arrival of the coronavirus, milk’s fortunes about-faced with Americans not only stockpiling it during the initial pantry-loading phase of the pandemic in early March, but they have continued to buy it at much higher rates than before the outbreak.

According to the market research firm IRI, US retail sales of dairy in 2020 (year to date) are up 16.3% from the same period in 2019, with much of this coming during the initial panic after the pandemic was declared when sales increased 55.1% from March 9 through March 22 compared to the same time last year. Since that initial spike, sales have dropped, but remain 24.6% higher than this time last year.

Rani explains that the initial surge was fueled in part by consumers wanting trusted staples and being at home more, but she adds the continued demand also has to do with milk’s versatility, nutritional profile and affordability.

“I think people rediscovered just how essential [milk] was during the pandemic,”​ with 72% of moms saying milk was the number one item during the stay-at-home time, which was 20 points higher than the next closest category, Rani said.

Building an online following

At the same time that milk’s popularity was surging on shelf, it was also surging online to become as Rani notes a “social media superstar.”

She explained that since the pandemic began, positive social mentions of milk are up 40% and overall social mentions are up 30%.

“We just saw this outpouring of people turning to social media and with videos, with images, sharing the many fun and fundamental ways in which they were enjoying the product. So we just thought this was a wonderful opportunity to turn the camera back on America and showcase their love for it,”​ she said.

And this is exactly what the revived Got Milk? campaign aims to do – showcase Americans’ love of milk, how they are using it and how it is a source of much-need optimism during time that is frustrating and bleak for many people.

According to Rani, Americans are embracing this message of optimism with upwards of 900 million views of the campaign’s Tic Tok channel and hundreds of thousands of user submitted content pieces.

Tapping into user generated content also helped MilkPEP create new marketing materials despite the restraints of social distancing during the pandemic. Although Rani noted this was not the primary impetus for focusing on the every day person’s experiences with milk in the campaign.

In addition, crowdsourcing the content from fans also helped MilkPEP showcase the divers appeal of milk.

“We’re proud of how inclusive the campaign is, and we really think of milk as a drink for everybody because there’s a 94% of households, and we’ve really tried to reflect the diversity of our user base and the work we’re putting out in the world,”​ Rani said.

Celebrities and sports stars lend their support to milk

While the campaign is centered on the average American’s experiences with milk, it also features a range of social media influencers, including US Olympian Katie Ledecky who set the tone for the campaign’s challenge with an awe-inspiring Tic-Tok video of her swimming with a glass of chocolate milk balanced on her head.

“We have 20 other influencers … some of the athletes, some of them are activists, some of them are entertainers,”​ and we are excited to invite everyone else to chime in as well to really show that this campaign is a reinvention of Got Milk? for today’s generation, Rani explained.

Even though the campaign is heavily focused on social media, it also includes more traditional advertising aspects, including television ads on ABC, Disney, Food Network and others. In addition, the campaign will engage with Hershey in retail stores and on digital shopper platforms.

“I would say it is a fully funnel program, not just social, even though it has been a big part of the launch. We hope to reach consumers in lots of different places from traditional and slightly less traditional,​” she added.

To do this, the campaign will continue to expand and evolve in the coming months by bringing on additional influencers, celebrities and activations through back to school and into the fall and Halloween.

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