Football and milkMost people who work in the dairy industry are familiar with the iconic “got milk?” milk mustache campaign, but fewer know that research is the driving force behind MilkPEP’s approach to program activities ranging from targeting to messaging and creative execution. Often, the research conducted to guide our consumer campaign also provides our processors with important and actionable insights that can help guide product development, inform marketing and drive sales.

In keeping with our mission to positively impact milk consumption at breakfast, MilkPEP engaged the New York-based ExactCast team to deliver insights that can jumpstart consumption of milk at breakfast. The ExactCast team, a joint venture of the political polling firm Whitman Insight Strategies and the ad agency Protagonist, helped MilkPEP bring to the surface insights that will ultimately drive a turnaround in milk consumption through a tried-and-true technique that politicians have used for decades — behavioral segmentation that identifies three distinct groups of voters for a candidate: the base, the opposition and the swing.

This approach has been successful for many politicians, and a cornerstone of even the most recent presidential election, but few mainstream marketers have leveraged this highly pragmatic way to look at consumers when it comes to brands or mass consumables.

So what do we need to do? To gain votes for milk, we must:

1. Nurture the base. We must be sure to feed and care for our base with minimal investment. We already have them in our corner, so we must do nothing to alienate them, yet minimize our investment against them.

2. Ignore the opposition. Take them off the table. They’ll never buy milk, so we need to stop investing to “convert the unconvertible” when we know that nothing we can say will ever convince them to vote for milk.

3. Overinvest in the swing. This is where our return on investment on marketing will explode. Identify the right message to persuade the movable middle and motivate them to “vote for your brand.”


Deliver the protein message

MilkPEP not only identified Milk’s “swing voter at breakfast,” but also we tested a variety of messaging alternatives to surface that swing voter. If you watched the Super Bowl and our first-ever Super Bowl TV commercial, you saw the start of that messaging — “Protein, that powerful way to start your day” — along with over 100 million other consumers on the biggest ad day of the year. To us in the milk processing industry, this is probably obvious, so obvious that we haven’t been saying it enough lately and it’s therefore “new news” to the base and swing consumer.

Our new protein message coupled with messages that consumers will respond to, such as the muscle- and bone-building power of milk and the fact that one 8-ounce glass of milk in the morning can keep parents and their children alike energized, gives consumers new and compelling reasons to want to vote for milk.

In short, we learned that consumers have forgotten that milk helps fuel active, successful days for the whole family, and that it is nature’s super-food.


Understanding our audience

So who are milk’s base and swing “voters”? Twenty-four million households fall into the swing category and can be persuaded, through new messaging, to serve and consume more milk than they’re now drinking, while 21.2 million households fall into the “base” segment. Interestingly, four out of five adults in the base and swing are parents. Historically, MilkPEP has communicated with moms alone, but we now know that there is an opportunity to extend our communication to dads as well.

So what is the potential impact of winning over these consumers? Between the base and the swing, ExactCast projects that the potential incremental volume could be as high as 500 million gallons. This represents a potential 18% increase in breakfast-at-home volume, and an 8.2% increase in total milk volume. Even if we only made a quarter of the impact, we could witness a 4.5% increase in breakfast-at-home volume and a 2% overall increase in total milk volume.

However, MilkPEP cannot reach these numbers alone. In order for us to capitalize on the base and swing voter and effectively deliver our new messaging, it must be a cross-industry effort where we are all aligned and speaking with one voice.

So what does this mean for the processor community? What can you do right now to begin capitalizing on these insights as MilkPEP builds out a full set of communications tools for you this year?

1. Get protein messaging right onto your packaging now.The research shows that you’ll not only increase your volume, but that you’ll be taking a disproportionate amount of volume from other beverages commonly seen at the breakfast table. Let your milk packaging fight for you, from the dairy aisle right onto the breakfast table.

2. Get the messaging onto store shelves now. MilkPEP is already piloting in-store, on-shelf messaging with retailers around the country, and the initial results are very promising. We’ll share the results of our in-store tests in the future.

3. Get local with your messaging. A combined media push is key to raising awareness and driving sales. Media research, as part of the ExactCast initiative, demonstrated that national TV is still the key driver of milk volume — hence the first spot ever for milk in the Super Bowl. But it also demonstrated that local newspaper advertising, along with advertising on local TV and newspaper websites, can be a powerful and cost-effective weapon in raising awareness for the attributes and benefits of milk that will drive incremental volume. I highly encourage you to proactively talk to the editors of your local media or explore the costs for a pilot local media test. It could be more affordable, and more effective than you ever dreamed possible and an excellent complement to the national activities. Not to mention a powerful way to seed a unified message nationally and locally.

4. Get active with parents’ groups in your community. They are where the purchasing and serving action is and you are the conduits to your community and the best ambassadors for your brand. Explore presenting at a PTA meeting, working with the booster club or sponsoring the local football team.

More votes for milk are out there and ready to be cast to help turn volume around. It’s up to us to effectively communicate our messaging, reinforce the attributes of milk that have been forgotten and create a compelling reason for our consumers to “vote” for milk again.

MilkPEP is confident that with your help, our new “political” approach to messaging to consumers will be the impetus that will reverse the decline of per capita milk consumption.