Marketing Matters: got camp?

by Steve Cony

One would have to live snugly under a rock to be unaware of the Dairy Management Inc. co-op advertising campaign featuring all those assorted people with white “mustaches” and the simple message “got milk?®” We can learn some valuable lessons from the development and resulting successes of this campaign.

“got milk?®” was first seen in 1993 — eight years ago. Think about that. You have seen the advertising for eight years, and you probably still look forward to each new version! Perhaps the most important aspect of the campaign is that the two-word line has not been altered once. Regional milk producer co-ops continue to saturate their marketplaces with these messages. While there has been a continuous refreshment of the people shown consuming milk, including celebrities, the basic premise has remained untouched.

This campaign has achieved considerable success. By 1996, three years after inception, 91 percent of consumers were aware of this campaign — 91 percent! In a year when Budweiser introduced its frogs, 47 percent said they liked those commercials a lot, and 41 percent said they liked the “got milk?®” campaign a lot.

Faced with a multilevel onslaught from Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, Snapple, Evian, and more, this campaign has arrested a previous decline in milk sales and has helped to cause a leveling off of consumption. In this case, “leveling off” is just fine with the milk producers — as opposed to the ominous future they knew they might be facing.

The keys to this campaign are strategy and continuity. First, careful strategizing was employed. Instead of endlessly lecturing the public about the wholesome value of milk, the advertising “got current” and began to have fun with the subject. Then, instead of encouraging milk consumption alone, the campaign highlighted the benefits of milk and other foods — cereal, cookies, and brownies. Next, they added the perfect twist: show the peril that sets in when one of these foods is desired and there is no milk left as an accompaniment. Oh the horror! Jeff Manning, executive director of the California Milk Processing Board, said, “You have to look at your business and discover what is different or unique, and play to that quality. We didn’t try to change the milk business — we looked at the truths that were already there and found a different way to present our product.”

Perhaps even more important, there has been perfect continuity since 1993. Nobody has convinced anybody to drop the theme because “we’ve used it for a long time now.” The theme remains untouched, while the execution of that theme is continually refreshed.

Refreshing Continuity

What can you learn from the “got milk?®” campaign? Too often, valuable camp marketing messages become lost because the camp director becomes bored handing out the same brochure or video. Too often, the purchase of a new piece of equipment or the construction of a new building becomes an instant rationale for taking the marketing message back to square one. Here are some suggestions to encourage your maintenance of valuable continuity:

  • Remember that you have seen the marketing message before — in fact, over and over again — but every one of your valuable prospects is seeing it for the very first time.
  • Keep in mind that it is less expensive to continue or even enhance the same campaign theme than to start all over.
  • Encourage positive word of mouth about your camp operation by keeping your message consistent.
  • Evaluate whether you should continually change your Web site. The changes may be easily made, but are they prudent or even necessary?

While it is unwise to turn over a successful campaign merely for the sake of change, it is certainly advisable to refresh the theme and take it to new heights. Manning commented, “How we express ‘got milk?®’ will change over time, but we’re no longer seeing it as a jingle or a campaign. We’re seeing it as the dairy industry’s brand.”

Sharing the Story

Another marketing effort that deserves emphasis and continuity is the ACA ‘World of Good’ message. Each of you must share the responsibility for making this story of the deeper value of the camp experience part of your own marketing platforms. The ‘World of Good’ message must be delivered with consistency in order for the story to gain awareness, understanding, and believability in the marketplace. To publish one flyer which outlines the key messages for your constituency — and then to not reinforce this message over and over — is probably a regrettable waste of time and ink. Instead, adopt your own personalized version of the ‘World of Good’ benefits statements as part of your camp’s campaign.

This column is perhaps a bit shorter than others in this series. (Mom taught me, “Say what you have to say, then sit down.”) The conclusion is simple: If you have developed a strategically strong marketing message and you want it to have long-term impact, ask yourself, “got patience?”

Steve Cony is a marketing consultant who assists children's camps with the development of strategic plans and the execution of marketing materials. Camp directors may contact him at 914-271-8482.

Originally published in the 2001 November/December issue of Camping Magazine.

Tags: marketing