Oleksii Terpugov | Dreamstime
Pouring milk / making a splash.

Get Your Own Campaign

May 1, 2023
B2C marketing success cannot be replicated for your B2B program. You’ve got to distinguish yourself and match the target audience’s awareness.

My heart dropped when yet another of my friends said those dreaded words to me: “Got Milk?” It was a presentation for an industrial project and the potential client wanted a “Got Milk?” marketing campaign for their niche B2B manufacturing product. Oh, I felt for her because I have been there, in meetings with sales staff, business development leaders, and CEOs, and heard the same awful words time and again.

Y’all, I am here to tell you that recreating the “Got Milk” campaign really is not feasible for industrial products, and not with the budget your SMB organization has in mind. Nope. Not happening.

Let’s start by noting that campaign was introduced 30 years ago! There have been a lot of changes in the media landscape since 1993. Let’s zero in on the ones that apply to every marketplace, B2B or B2C:

-   There is a lot more “marketing” noise and audiences’ attention is splintered. During the heyday of that famous campaign, cable TV reached less than 50% of households and you could still reach most audiences on network stations during designated hours – 6 pm news, 10 pm news, afternoon soaps, etc. Radio waves (not satellite) played in every car and most houses. Social media had not emerged as the juggernaut of influence it has become. Simply put, the playing field was very, very different.

-   The target product – milk – was not sexy but it required no explanation and had limited competition. Soymilk was becoming popular but almond milk and oat milk had not achieved widespread adoption. Most consumers had no knowledge of milk alternatives. Everyone knew dairy milk, even if they were not drinking it.

-   Milk’s price point was achievable for nearly every household, even if only infrequently.

Looking specifically at B2B marketing, your niche manufacturing product does not have the ubiquity of milk. Every manufacturing firm I’ve worked with starts by saying the same two things: a) Their product/service is unique (maybe); and b) their people make the product unique. Newsflash… if everyone says something it’s table stakes, not a differentiator. Distinctive products require an explanation of their benefits.

The barriers to entry at the “Got Milk” level are even higher if your industrial product is creating a new category in which product adoption requires education or process changes to existing systems. Those two factors are “change challenges,” meaning the pain point of the problem must be significantly higher than the bumpy road of change because every business faces internal challenges when adopting changes.

No one likes process changes, especially if they feel the change was not their own idea. And if you doubt this, any IT professional or project manager will be happy to explain the many challenges of installing a new system or process. Overcoming fear of change adoption and managing organizational change adoption are an entire industry for a reason.

If you have made it this far in the column, I have good news. You 100% can do a “Got Milk” style campaign. It will not be as impactful because it will be derivative, not novel. It will cost a lot more than you might be planning because market reach has changed.

Instead, what if you considered a marketing message that is unique to your actual business? What if you make your message consistent across all touch points? What if you ask customers to tell you in their own words what a difference your product makes for them, rather than forcing a snappy one-liner to inadequately explain a complex set of benefits? What if you look at new channels to tell that brand story? What if you focus on actual differentiators that distinguish you from others offering similar products or solutions? What if you make your branding and messaging focused, clear, and consistent?

The one thing you can easily take away from the “Got Milk?” campaign’s success? Consistency matters. That campaign ran for nearly 10 years. Same clear, snappy message until we all knew it. Maybe it is time for you to double-down on consistency, too.

Alexandria Trusov is the Global Marketing Director at Alpha Resources and a B2B marketing consultant to manufacturers and other B2B companies. Contact her at [email protected] or visit www.truinsightsconsulting.com.

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