Marketers, milk is NEVER sexy.

Posted on November 26, 2014

Let’s get this straight. Milk is not, and never will be, sexy, no matter how you try to brand it.

A while back a forward thinking milk brand decided to shake up the dairy industry. They had a unique filtration process and used cutting edge technology to produce the purest, most nutritious and advanced milk on the market. At face value, a brand based on such sensible attributes was worth looking at, so it commissioned some research to see just how viable it would be as a consumer proposition.

The results were mixed. Consumers appreciated the intent behind the technology but felt that it was incongruous with one of nature’s most complete nutritional offerings. If milk is so naturally full of goodness then why intervene and over-engineer it unnaturally? The strategy team was split but after much deliberation decided to take the risk and launch the brand.

Sales were poor from the start and never picked up. Within a year the product was abandones and the brand reverted back to its older, natural positioning.

It was one of those close calls where the will it/won’t it argument could only be settled by having a go. The product was well intended, healthy and the technology was sound. In some markets it might have worked but in the UK it was clear that customers didn’t like a natural product being tampered with. It was a calculated risk that didn’t deliver but garnered valuable insights about milk’s position in the British mindset. It was a risk worth taking if lessons were learned for the future.

By contrast, Fairlife, a premium milk brand owned by Coca Cola and launched earlier this year in the US, has taken a completely different approach. They’ve decided that milk is sexy.

Sometimes instinct will tell you to ignore research, but when both instinct and research tell you the same thing it’s very likely to be true. Ignore both at your peril. I am not aware of any plausible research in any market that will tell you that milk is sexy. I also don’t know of any human being who looks at milk and thinks about sex. If they do, it’s a personal fetish they should keep to themselves. Having seen some of Fairlife’s ads I’m tempted to conclude that their brand strategy team is over-indexed with milk fetishists.

Have a look at them.

Fairline milk

‘Drink what she’s wearing’? No thanks. This is milk, not champagne. ‘Milk looks good on you’? No it doesn’t. It’s a cloudy liquid produced by nipples for the primary goal of infant nutrition and development. It is not and never will be sexy. I am trying to picture the strategists and creatives who came up with this. I assume they must be beer drinking alpha males who have no children and think everything is about sex.

Milk is natural and wholesome. It makes you think of childhood, family and security. On other occasions it goes off and stinks. It curdles and turns into cheese. And, if you’re like me, the memory of it dribbling down your baby’s chin after gorging on your wife’s painfully cracked nipples before regurgitating half of it back up again with a burp, is indelible. It is the polar opposite of sexy. No amount of splashing it over a naked woman, who I hope washed properly afterwards, is going to change this.

(The image for this post is by Julia Shinkareva and used with thanks via a Creative Commons licence)

What Others Are Saying

  1. Vyvy DeZ January 11, 2015 at 3:11 am

    I agree with you, and as far as I’m concerned I work heavily for desexing the Act of breast-feeding, which means feed, nurture and promote healthy development and immunization of children. Breast milk has that purpose. Because of this kind of opportunistic campaign, breastfeeding women feel embarrassed to breastfeed in public and usually broken down. Formulas serve only as substitutes for mothers who cannot breastfeed. Cow’s milk is for calfs. If you don’t go as well as yogurt or cheese.

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