Sunday, April 1, 2012

“Got Milk?”

The advertising campaign known by that name is viewed as one of the most famous commodity brand campaigns in the United States. It was created in 1993 by Goodby Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processors Board; the campaign was later licensed to others in the industry. Now here is the interesting outcome of this campaign, still running today. It increased milk consumption—but only in California.

Below I present per capita consumption data on all dairy products published by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (link to the data is here).



To bring out the movement in the commodities made from milk, I show the largest portion of the dairy industry, fluid milk, indexed to the right axis; if I didn’t do that, the growth or decline of the other categories would become invisible. But all data are shown in consumption per pound. Milk is by far the most dominant product category in dairy—and consumption has been in steady decline; milk, incidentally, also includes (as reported here), yoghurt and sour cream.

The “exciting” new product in dairy is cheese! It has shown dramatic growth in this 1975 to 2010 period. Interestingly enough, one component of that category, cottage cheese, has declined almost as much as milk; the growth of American cheese has been mild; the big advances are associated with the “other cheese” category, the cheddars and the like. Butter has held its own, as it were, growing just a little. All other categories have shown decline.

A big surprise here (for me) is the decline in per capita consumption of ice cream. That category has four subdivisions: regular, low-fat, sherbet, and frozen specialties. The biggest decline has been in regular ice cream. The low-fat variety showed flat growth; the frozen specialties, however, actually increased their hold on the consumer.

The “all other” category includes evaporated and condensed milk and dried milk products, including, surprisingly, dried buttermilk. They too point downward.

Milk provides an interesting comment on the effectiveness of advertising. All those celebrity-lips whitened attractively by milk have not actually delivered growth for the fundamental product of this industry. The public does its thing. Advertising appears to influence behavior only on the margins.

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