The Worst Branding Move in History?

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Milk has been one of the best branded commodities in modern years. Everyone in the United States has seen the Got Milk? campaign, which is considered one of the most brilliant branding campaigns in history. It is difficult to make drinking milk “cool,” but this marketing made it as close as possible. The advertisements for milk have ranged from celebrity appeals to subtle and not-so-subtle humor.

However, the California Milk Processor Board, the organization behind the Got Milk campaigns over the years, may have taken the humor a little too far. A recent marketing campaign was intended to present milk as a preventer of PMS, which is apparently supported by new research. However, the campaign crossed the line from humorous into raunchy, and may have done very real damage to the formerly family-friendly brand.

This new campaign is called “Everything I Do Is Wrong” and features beleaguered men holding cartons of milk along with apologies to the women in their life. The apologies are definitely tongue in cheek, as you can see from the example. The campaign immediately hit a wall of public outcry. Many people considered it just a little too offensive and even sexist. The jokes seemed more critical than humorous in many cases.

The California Milk Processor Board almost immediately stopped the campaign when it became obvious that it was not well-received, but the damage may already be done. There have been numerous complaints on the Got Milk Facebook page, and the campaign page, everythingidoiswrong.org is now redirecting to gotdiscussion.org, a damage control page dedicates to the controversy.

We have seen other ill-advised advertising campaigns before, and in many cases the company manages to skirt damage to the brand. However, we have to wonder whether this is possible in this case. These ads broke the cardinal rule of marketing and branding: know your audience. In this case, families with young children are the main consumers and most regular buyers of milk. Although this may have been an attempt to expand into young adult markets, it makes the fatal error of offending the core market.

Moreover, it is not even a good campaign for the young adult market. If anything, it makes the product somewhat of a joke. No young man would want to be seen buying or drinking a PMS remedy, so why would milk present its product as such? This campaign is baffling on so many levels; it is a brand destroyer. We are wondering how this idea ever made it off the drawing board and into reality.

This is how branding and marketing campaigns that are not focused on the customer so often end: in total disaster. A lot of money was poured into advertisements that have been pulled off the market and a beautiful Flash website that redirects to another page. Further, there will be an ongoing need for damage control and a new marketing campaign that hopefully will help consumers forget this little incident. It will be interesting to see how milk manages to get its product back at the top of the marketing heap.