The “Got Milk?” slogan was first used to promote the healthy consumption of fresh dairy 17 years ago, in October of 1993.
A widespread and critical success, “Got Milk?” boosted the sale of milk nationwide (particularly in California), as the campaign today enjoys 90% awareness among American consumers. Through effective TV spots like the Alexander Hamilton $10,000 radio question and influential print advertisements featuring the milk mustache, “Got Milk?” has solidified itself a spot in the pop culture hall of fame.
Due to the campaign’s sensational results, parodies and spin-offs of the “Got Milk?” slogan have corrupted local and national advertising channels. The motto’s proneness to word substitution–as in ‘Got X?’ where x equals any given product–has paved the way for countless rip-offs and lazy attempts at creating witty advertising. Frustrated at the thought of actually having to produce an original slogan or catchphrase, small business owners simply borrow and ‘customize’ the two-word ad-line in hopes that its promotional prowess will attract potential customers.
Now, I understand that small businesses have other interests in mind and cannot focus their immediate attention on marketing. However, there are thousands of unique slogan possibilities for the many different business types–all of which take perhaps a few hours of brainstorming to generate. Besides, when a farm stand, for instance, advertises with the motto “Got Corn?,” the entire premise of the original “Got Milk?” campaign becomes irrational; the whole concept of those famous milk ads was to show characters in situations where they desperately needed a glass of milk in order to avoid some sort of catastrophe. By altering the motto, this concept becomes completely illogical. Consumers will not be able to wash down their peanut butter sandwiches with an ice cold glass of corn.
On top of all this, the “Got Milk?” campaign has unofficially become stale and overused. It is no longer cutting-edge, innovative or sharp. We don’t continue to hear variations of “where’s the beef?” or “the other white meat” yet simple-minded marketers insist on beating the “Got Milk?” mantra to a slow and painful death. It’s like an internet meme that will never die, the ‘Charlie Bit my Finger’ of large-scale advertising campaigns. Almost to a fault, its simple but poignant two-word structure has allowed for massive duplication.
“Got Milk?” has become a staple of American society. It has become bigger than milk itself, to the point where no subsequent dairy catchphrase can possibly topple it. And for this reason, “Got Milk?” and its unimaginative variations will never go away.