Oh, you've heard this one before. If you haven't heard the "Got Milk?" tag line of the California Milk Processor Board's ad campaign, you've been living under rock since approximately 1993. If you've forgotten what the original commercials were like though, the first is here for your viewing pleasure.
The gist: You just ate cookies or a peanut butter sandwich and your mouth is aching for that perfect beverage to wash it all down. Got Milk?
Who knew a peanut butter sandwich could cost you $10,000? Should you go without the gooey stuff, lest your tongue stick to the roof of your mouth? Of course not, get some milk, silly.
And people did. This simple little phrase helped to greatly increase milk sales nationwide after a 15-year slump. Celebrities wanted in on the action, and the list of endorsers goes on and on. When campaigns are such great successes, there are attempts to expand their messages to greater audiences. Funny how the "Got Milk?" Wikipedia entry doesn't mention any of this, but... that's where the trouble started.
Encouraged by the advertisement's early success, the Milk Board set their sights on the Latino community in California. As it turns out, they needed an entirely new slogan: "Got Milk?" translates to "Are you lactating?" in Spanish. Whoops.
Additionally, the premise of the campaign - avoiding the annoyance of running out of milk - needed to be redeveloped entirely. Due to cultural nuances, the idea of a Latina mother running out of milk or certain other staples is outright offensive and not funny. Even more to the point, the "Got Milk?" campaign was aimed at anyone of any age who might run out of milk, not directly at mothers and grandmothers who are the traditional providers of milk in Latina households.
Instead, a different, more appropriate approach was employed for the Hispanic campaign. The Milk Deprivation Strategy was replaced with Milk Generations Strategy. The campaign had the tag line "Y Usted, Les dio suficiente leche hoy?" ("And you, did you give them enough milk today?"). The ads highlighted family recipes that used milk as the main ingredient, like flan, bread pudding, and three-milk cake. Eventually, the tag line changed to "Familia Amor y Leche" ("Family, Love and Milk.").
The campaigns now successfully position milk as an essential part of the family and of the Hispanic culture, but it could have gone a very different way.
Another note I want to tag on before I finish is while researching this article, I found this Wikipedia article called "Got Rice?" This phrase was coined by an Asian American youth in the 1990s, shortly after the "Got Milk?" campaign became so popular. The humor is derived from the fact that rice is considered a staple food of many Asian cultures and milk is not a traditional Asian food. The slogan is seen as an Asian American response to American advertising. It has come to be used as a symbol for the cohesiveness of Asian American cultural identity and pride.