David Mastovich

Clarity and brevity make stories memorable.

One of my favorite examples is “Got milk?”

Two words and a question mark.

That’s all it took to make this message stick and it came to be in 1993, because the California Milk Processor Board wanted to increase brand awareness and sales.

The board came up with a campaign and kicked things off with a television commercial.

Yes, this was during the time when people actually paid attention to commercials

and their heads weren’t buried in a phone when their favorite show wasn’t on the television set.

If you don’t remember this commercial, it showed a hapless historian making a peanut butter sandwich in what appears to be an office or a personal library with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and classical music blaring in the background.

After he’s done making the sandwich, he takes a big bite as the radio station personality asks the on-air question, “Who shot Alexander Hamilton?”

The commercial explained that as part of the contest, the listener that called in first (almost certainly while using an old-fashioned land line back then) and answered correctly would win a $10,000 prize.

His call goes through and he tries to answer the question, “Aaron Burr,” with a mouth full and the disc jockey can’t understand what he’s saying.

The D.J. and the caller keep going back and forth. Out of desperation, the peanut butter sandwich-eating man grabs a carton of milk from his refrigerator. It’s empty. And, for the third and final time, he tries saying “Aaron Burr” to no

avail.

You hear the phone click and the commercial ends simply with, “Got milk?”

All it took was two words and a question mark to get into people’s minds.

The driving force of this success goes back to the point I made at the beginning of this column, and that is clarity and brevity make stories memorable.

This campaign perfectly paired creativity with simplicity to create something that people are still talking about

27 years after it first aired.

David Mastovich is founder and CEO of MASSolutions, host of the “No BS Marketing” podcast and author of the book “Get Where You Want to Go Through Marketing, Selling and Story Telling.” 

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