Case Study

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The attack on milk.

 And the surprisingly affordable defense.

For years, milk has been under attack:

  • Newfangled sports drinks and milk substitutes and their seemingly unlimited budgets were grabbing milk’s market share. 
  • Milk substitutes like almond, rice and soy were flooding the market with inaccuracies about milk.
  • The press and social media were filled with misinformation about milk additives like hormones and antibiotics.

Meanwhile, consumers had no resource for credible, objective information about the nutritional value of milk.

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So when MilkPEP (the milk industry’s advocacy platform) called on us to come to milk’s defense, we answered the call.

Our research showed milk also had a real image problem. In an age of rapidly innovating energy drinks, good, old-fashioned milk was not seen as contemporary. People had concerns about fat and calories, and milk was seen as a kid’s drink and something that you’d only consume along with fatty foods. Plus, while milk is a staple in most U.S. refrigerators, it isn’t something people think about until it was gone. We needed to move milk to the top of the shopping list.

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We started with a purpose: Milk helps people succeed. It’s nature’s wonder liquid, sporting a combination of nutritious vitamins, proteins, healthy fats and carbohydrates that help people achieve their goals.

From there, we developed the Milk Life campaign. Through imagery of athletes and dancers bolstered by wings and geysers of milk, we highlight how milk’s essential nutrition, including protein, helps power you through a successful day. This campaign-specific iconography is highly recognizable and can be utilized by consumer, industry and health advocacy groups.

We integrated digital, social, retail, PR, grassroots and Hispanic. While competitors ran expensive TV spots, the efficient Milk Life effort included assets and tools that member companies could leverage.

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With such a widespread market, widespread awareness and widespread misconceptions about milk, it would take nothing less than a movement to turn the tide. So we created one, based on the facts. 

The heart of this strategy is a web site serving as an always-on content alternative to the sources of bad information about milk, with:

  • Custom-authored content
  • Website structure and user experience based on research into user search habits 
  • Credible, specific, objective sources of nutrition data 
  • A way for consumers to participate in the movement using the hashtag #MilkTruth, with seamless connections to social media channels.
  • Tools for stores to integrate into their own marketing efforts, including experiential, retail and CRM elements.
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Our research on chocolate milk revealed a different marketing problem: People were so focused on the chocolate that they dismissed the milk, when in fact, chocolate milk has a nutritional profile similar to post-exercise recovery drinks. Studies showed that when consumed within two hours of exercise, chocolate milk actually helps athletes recover faster and perform better.

People couldn’t see the nutrition through the chocolate. This was the insight that helped us boost chocolate milk consumption.

Instead of mass marketing chocolate milk to moms as a tasty snack for kids, we chose a surprising and unconventional approach, targeting an older, more serious audience, for a top-down influencer strategy.

We profiled accomplished athletes in their reflective and personally powerful moments — during the refueling that follows intense workouts and in moments of competition. The campaign was based on the theme (which served as a caption for each athlete) “Built with Chocolate Milk.”

With a modest $6.5MM annual media budget, our approach was as efficient and powerful as the athletes we portrayed:

  • Long-form videos on social media and endurance sports blogs.
  • Targeted TV in endurance events like Tour de France and the IRONMAN Triathlon.
  • Print in publications like Runner’s World and Inside Triathlon.
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  • Partnership with the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon and IRONMAN Race Series. 
  • Sponsored playlists and content on Pandora and MapMyRun.
  • A suite of point-of-purchase assets in health clubs and retail environments to extend our message to areas when refueling is top of mind. Partners could order and customize event-in-a-box kits to create their own events, promotions or signage environments, or work with sales reps to drive traffic around the campaign.

Milk Marketing is evaluated annually with a Marketing Mix study:

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