As Dairy Alternatives Grow in Popularity, ‘Got Milk?’ Gets a Modern Makeover

When it comes to food marketing, it's hard to find a brand more iconic

The 'Got Milk?' campaign marks its 25th anniversary this year. Got Milk?
Headshot of Diana Pearl

In 1993, the California Milk Processing Board launched a campaign aimed at reminding people of the importance of milk. A video spot directed by Michael Bay showed a man obsessed with Alexander Hamilton. Photos of the founding father lined his walls, with a bust on his desk and the bullet that killed Hamilton in a glass case in the room. He’s listening to the radio, when the DJ poses the $10,000 question—Who shot Alexander Hamilton?—just as the man stuffs half of a peanut butter sandwich into his mouth.

Immediately, his phone rings, and on the other end is the DJ. He asks the Hamilton obsessee again, this time directly. His mouth still full of sandwich, he blurts out the name “Aaron Burr,” but it’s muddled by his chewing. He tries again, and still, the DJ can’t understand him. He looks to the side of his desk and sees a carton of milk. Thinking he’s found his solution—a glass of milk to wash down the sandwich—he quickly grabs it to pour into a glass. But the carton is practically empty, and the time is up to answer the question. The line goes dead, and two words appear on the screen as it fades to black: “got milk?”

This spot, of course, was the start of something big—specifically, the “Got Milk?” campaign.

The campaign has long evolved since that initial spot. In the late ’90s, print ads for the campaign featured celebrities from Alex Trebek and Whoopi Goldberg to Britney Spears and Kermit the Frog, all rocking a milk mustache. It was the campaign’s early days that helped propel it to its present iconic status, but it’s still going today. The CMPB recently debuted the latest iteration of the campaign, and it’s all about appealing to the next generation of parents.

The result of these efforts is a bilingual campaign (English and Spanish) created by the board’s AOR, Gallegos United, featuring kids—with a glass of milk in hand—lamenting their problems as adults would and citing milk as their energy booster and strength builder. Steve James, the CMPB’s executive director, said the focus on millennial families felt like a natural next step in the “Got Milk?” story.

“We thought that by broadening our goal and target from just moms to millennial parents and their families, we just thought it was a better way to speak to California families in general,” James said. “Families with kids at home are bigger consumers of milk. They’re more likely to have milk in fridge. They’re young parents right now, but they’re really setting cultural trends and, and we wanted to hone in on them.”

John Gallegos, the CEO of Gallegos United, added that part of the campaign’s focus came from identifying millennial families as a primary market for expansion.

“We just felt that we needed to look at where the growth is going to come from,” he said. “To stem decline, we needed to focus on the growth.” Part of zeroing in on that growth meant focusing on diversity—part of the reason Gallegos United, an agency that traditionally focuses on the Hispanic market, was selected as the CMPB’s sole AOR late last year.

“In California, you can see that the growth is coming from a more diverse audience, and you really have to dive into that,” Gallegos said. “From there, find those universal truths and be able to then bring out a campaign or strategy that is culturally attuned to that marketplace. People are coming from different views and different angles, so our approach was to find that universal insight and where milk has the greatest chance.”

@dianapearl_ Diana is the brand marketing editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.