"Got Milk?" Celebrates 20 Years of Failure

Image via The Daily Beast, which calls Got Milk? "one of American consumerism's most effective marketing campaigns." 

Image via The Daily Beast, which calls Got Milk? "one of American consumerism's most effective marketing campaigns." 

"I sell the things you need to be.
I'm the smiling face on your TV.
I'm the cult of personality."
— Living Colour

"Got Milk?" celebrated its 20th anniversary this month.

The campaign—created for the California Milk Processor Board and then licensed nationally—has won a place in consumers' hearts, inspired countless parodies and amassed every possible award, including induction into the Advertising Hall of Fame. 

The phrase has even "become the most remembered tagline in beverage history," according to Jeff Goodby, the campaign's creator. 

The only thing the campaign has failed to do is reverse a nearly four-decade slide in milk consumption. In fact, US milk consumption is down nearly 30 percent since 1975 on a per capita basis, even as sales of other dairy products have risen. (While milk sales in California ticked up after the campaign's launch, the impact proved to be temporary.) 

Milk's long-term decline has forced many dairy manufacturers to develop non-dairy drinksincluding coffee, tea, juice and lemonade—to make up for lost sales. 

There's no denying the challenge of selling milk in a more health-conscious world that's overstocked with competing beverages. You could even argue that milk consumption would be down even more if it were not for the milk-mustachioed celebrities.

But after celebrating this milestone anniversary, it's time for dairy producers to ask its starstruck marketing partners, "What Else You Got?"

[Here's the original "Got Milk?" ad. Maybe the product was the real hero, after all.}