When it comes to growing fluid milk’s market share, the dairy industry could learn a few lessons from Procter and Gamble.

As a matter of philosophy, P&G doesn’t believe in brand life-cycles. “We believe any brand can live and grow over time,” says Steve Bishop, vice president of fabric care at Procter and Gamble.

Just consider the story of Tide. It was introduced in 1946 as the “wash-day miracle” that could deliver the “cleanest wash in town.”   Today, both the volume share and dollar share of market for Tide has hit new highs.

P&G has been able to accomplish this by adhering to five core principles. Bishop shared these principles at the National Conference for Agribusiness this winter.

  • Constant innovation. In order to maintain and grow the number of consumers who choose your product, you must constantly reinvent your product. Each year, you need something that is new and improved.
  • New benefits.  Tide was basic laundry detergent for a number of years. Then, in 1980, P&G introduced Tide with Bleach — the first bleach in a detergent that actually worked.
  • New forms. If you don’t deliver what consumers want, someone else will. Consider what other forms of your product could have consumer appeal. In the case of Tide, it was liquid detergent.
  • New methods. How else can you help meet consumer needs?  For example, P&G will soon launch a stain brush that applies liquid detergent directly to tough stains.
  • Performance enhancements to the base product.  What can you do to innovate your base line in order to improve customer satisfaction? For instance, P&G introduced “wear-care” and “quick-dissolving” formulas of Tide.

While laundry detergent and milk may seem like they are worlds apart, they really aren’t. They are both perceived as non-sexy products that meet basic consumer needs — clean clothes and something to drink. That means the marketing principles for one can easily be applied to the other.

Just look at the principles outlined above. Each of them can be applied to milk. And, each can help explain why fluid milk consumption has slipped in the past. True, the industry now has milk in round, plastic containers that work in automobile cup holders and vending machines, but it took a long time to get there. That’s because the industry has not always challenged itself to constantly innovate fluid milk. We thought people would always choose milk because it was good for them. And that has allowed other beverage companies — water, colas and flavored drinks — to gain beverage market share.

However, many good things are on the horizon for milk, including:

  • A growing body of research that shows the link between calcium in dairy products and weight loss (new benefits).
  • Milk fortified with conjugated linoleic acid (new benefit/new form).
  • Carbonated milks (constant innovation).
  • The newly designed gallon milk jugs that Land O’ Lakes and Kemp's are trying out (performance breakthroughs). 

The challenge now is to educate consumers on ways that fluid milk can fit their lifestyles or meet a need.

And remember, says Bishop, if you are not listening to the people who buy your products, you will fail. But, if you listen and continually innovate your products to meet their needs, you can win.