Milk consumption is dropping, but that’s no reason to lose our heads. The steady drop in U.S. fluid milk consumption has prompted calls for the dairy checkoff to return to generic milk advertising. The popular “got milk?” campaign and other similar efforts apparently still have a place in dairy farmers’ hearts. Case in point: The team behind the Milk Mustache campaign already has announced plans to advertise during the Super Bowl.
But as a former checkoff communications director, I can tell you this: Those ads didn’t work. Yes, they raised the awareness for milk. Yes, they won industry awards for creativity. But I’ve seen the data, and the ads didn’t do the very thing they were designed to do — they didn’t sell more milk. And it wasn’t due to a lack of budget, either. Plenty of money was spent backing the ads and all of the related merchandise.
And this is no secret; checkoff leaders will be the first to volunteer this information. They also deserve your support for switching tactics when they realized that the needle wasn’t moving. The commercial disappearance successes of the dairy checkoff — and there are many to be proud of — come mainly from increasing cheese usage at quick serve restaurants. The organization also continues to do yeoman’s work when it comes to educating health professionals and the public on the benefits of dairy.
Maybe MilkPEP has cracked the code and has found a way to make its ads drive sales and consumption of fluid milk. Julie Buric, the organization’s marketing vice president, promises as much, saying that “the continuation of our long-term occasion-based approach will generate excitement for milk, drive volume and value, and maximize continuity, with the ultimate goal of changing consumer behavior.”
That’s a big bite to chew, especially when we recall that this drop in fluid milk consumption has been happening since 1975. The checkoff’s efforts are much better focused on tactics we know work, like research and design for innovative milk-based beverages or increasing fluid milk consumption in other areas of the world, not making cool but ineffective ads stateside.