The Grumpy Grammarian

How "Got Milk" Created a Cult-Like Following

“Got milk?” is a famous California marketing campaign from 1993 that’s built on a supposed grammatical error. This is because it leaves out “who” or “what” got the milk.

The correct phrasing should be “Have you got milk?” or “Do you have milk?”

It’s almost as boring as almond milk in my morning latte.

But here’s the issue – which phrasing is simple and catchy? “Got milk?” It created a craze (which is what good advertising is meant to do), got 350 celebrity milk mustache endorsements, and increased milk consumption in California and all across the US.

This campaign was created because milk sales were declining 3 percent to 4 percent per year in California (which was faster than anywhere else in the country). Its only goal was to stabilize milk consumption, so farmers wouldn’t go out of business. But by 1994, milk consumption actually increased for the first time in 10 years from 740 million gallons to 755 million gallons.

Using formal grammar wouldn’t have achieved the same results. 

And I wouldn’t have hung a poster of Matthew Fox with his sultry milk mustache on the ceiling of my bedroom.