Many perceive milk as an old-fashioned product, but it is also a universal and essential one, California Milk Processor Board (CMPB) Executive Director Stephen James asserts. “We’re talking about a product that is a staple,” he says. “It’s in everybody’s lives.”

For more than two decades, the California Milk Processor Board, which James manages, has promoted the benefits of milk through the famous got milk? brand. With more than 90 percent awareness nationally, “got milk? is known [all] over the English-speaking world,” he says. “It’s one of the most recognizable and recallable trademarks in advertising history.”

got milk?’s history goes back to 1993, when the fluid milk processors in California joined together to form CMPB.

That year, the processors agreed to a check-off program that takes 3 cents of every gallon sold to fund the promotion of milk consumption through marketing, advertising and public relations. 

Initially, the brand focused on marketing that presented consumers with the question of what would happen if they did not have milk at all. got milk?’s first TV commercial, James notes, featured a man struggling to speak with a mouthful of peanut butter and desperately needing milk to wash it down.

“We had sort of an epiphany ... when we started with the got milk? campaign that people only got passionate about it when they didn’t have it,” he recalls. “The challenge is making people think about milk in a society and era where it’s taken for granted. People just sort of assume it’s going to be there.” 

Today, the got milk? brand is licensed to national dairy boards for marketing and to manufacturers for their merchandise. Additionally, its promotions have included the popular “milk moustache” ad campaign, which has featured characters from “Sesame Street” and “Monsters University,” as well as celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Taylor Swift and Angelina Jolie. 

Thanks to its campaign, got milk? has accomplished the task of making milk feel contemporary, James explains. “It’s been a lovable, entertaining brand for a universal product,” he states.

Product Partners

got milk? has partnered with Diversified Consumer Goods, a Bloomington, Minn.-based company that produces and markets beverage enhancement products such as got milk? Magic Straws. got milk? straws come in chocolate, cookies and cream, strawberry, vanilla milkshake and other fun, seasonally inspired flavors. Besides Magic Straws, Diversified produces other innovative products under the got milk? brand that make drinking milk even more fun.  

After a nearly three-year partnership, got milk? appreciates Magic Straws’ work, James says. “They’re doing a great job,” he states. “They’re really going out and carving a niche in this very crowded marketplace. They have plans to add product lines [and] extensions, and various other partnership plans.” 

Last summer, got milk? also signed with Beanstalk, a New York City-based brand licensing agency and consultancy that will extend its trademark to other products. “Beanstalk has been very helpful with attracting new licensees and partners that can get us out there in the consumer packaged goods space,” James says. 

These include a new license agreement with Got Snacks?, which will soon launch a line of packaged foods that include cookies, brownies, wafers, cereals, granola, granola bars and donuts. “[These] not only taste good but offer a great value for consumers,” he says. “You really have to have a glass of milk with them.”

Reaching Out

As the platforms to reach consumers have changed, so has got milk?, James asserts. The brand uses social media such as Twitter and Facebook to reach consumers, as well as videos on its website. 

“That’s the most recent example of how technology has changed the way we go to market,” James says. “I’m sure that our partners will be using the same touch points that technology gives us.”

Through these new touch points, got milk? strives to convey its culture, which is oriented towards children, families and fun. “It’s peppered with irreverence,” he asserts. “Our sense of humor is a little off center and we think that’s the brand DNA.”

New Opportunities

After 21 years, James is proud and protective of got milk? “We make sure it’s not abused or misused and not used inappropriately,” he says. “We want to make sure that everything that carries the got milk? trademark has our goodwill.”

James predicts that got milk? will stay busy with more partnerships like the ones it has formed with Diversified Consumer Goods and Got Snacks? “I see more opportunities to get it out into the consumer space in supermarkets, convenience stores, airlines and cruise ships,” he states. Beanstalk is also seeking licensees for apparel, publishing, melamine and novelty items.

“[We’re] approaching and looking at different ways to get these products in the hands of people when they might not expect them,” he says. “I know when I’m on a red eye between Los Angeles and New York, I’d love to have a got milk? snack box before I land.” 

Movie theaters are another potential arena for these products, James says. “I’ve got children,” he says. “To get them to have healthy snacks in those places is a challenge, and we’re hoping to solve that problem.”