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Just do it. Drivers wanted. Got milk? A Diamond Is Forever.

Recognize these? They're all breakaway campaigns. Each, launched more than a decade ago, has survived to this day. Brands become breakaway brands because of breakaway branding campaigns.

For a new brand, a campaign is its introduction to the public. For an existing brand, a campaign can increase interest and drive up sales and profits. For a declining brand, the right campaign can renew consumer interest and rejuvenate sales.

A breakaway campaign stands out in the crowd because it cuts through the clutter, connects with the consumer, differentiates the brand from all of its competitors—and it sells. It can be for any product in any market. The breakaway campaign is one that has legs and can live beyond the initial launch. It not only brings a breakaway brand to market but also sustains that brand by evolving over time. While the tactics may change, the underlying strategy of a breakaway campaign often remains for many, many years.

Apple's "Think Different" campaign led to the company's turnaround, creating a different perception about the computer maker that had a lasting impact on the consumer. Volkswagen's "Drivers wanted" campaign so reinvigorated the brand that VWs became the coolest cars to drive. Nike's "Just do it" campaign defined not just a brand but a lifestyle. While competitors have marketed sneakers, Nike has marketed mindset.

The breakaway campaign has the potential to catapult a brand into the culture, create an aspirational connection, and endure for many years. Two classic examples of breakaway campaigns are "got milk?" and "A Diamond Is Forever."

Got Milk?

Conceived by the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), the tag line "got milk?" was introduced in a television ad that ran in October 1993. This was the beginning of a breakaway campaign that changed the American public's perception of milk.

It was a campaign not without risk. Every previous message about milk conveyed how good it was for you and how it built strong bones. This may have been accurate, but it was dull, dull, dull. Many beverages had passed milk by, but "got milk?" recognized not the classic health benefits but rather the contemporary "benefits" of milk. Milk became relevant again, because it was the perfect companion beverage to junk food like peanut butter, cookies, and chocolate cake.

The "got milk?" ads won major ad awards in 1994, 1996, 1997, and 2003. Print ads showed celebrities with "milk mustaches." By the late '90s, "got milk?" became so ingrained into American culture that countless takeoffs ("got wine?", "got catnip?", etc.) turned the celebrated tag line into a pop culture icon.

According to CMPB, "got milk?" has achieved over 90% awareness nationally. It has single-handedly revitalized a moribund industry after a 20-year sales slump.

A Diamond Is Forever

Created by the ad agency N.W. Ayer, the tag line "A Diamond Is Forever" was written in 1948. But the campaign, designed to sell more expensive diamonds, started in earnest in 1939.

In his book The Diamond Invention (Arrow/Random House, 1982), Edward Jay Epstein exhaustively details the story of how the De Beers diamond cartel created demand in the United States for larger, more expensive diamonds through a carefully orchestrated advertising and publicity campaign. In 1939, diamond prices had collapsed in a Europe that was approaching war. In the United States, the diamond engagement ring was already an American tradition, but the size and quality of the diamonds being presented left much to be desired—at least in the opinion of De Beers.

Ayer devised a strategy that was the forerunner of today's "advertainment"—using entertainment as a primary vehicle for product promotion. The agency suggested that diamond engagement rings become a featured attraction in motion pictures; in fact, Ayer said, they wanted to arrange for scenes to be written into movies being produced at the time. Because movie stars represented romantic figures, their fictional presentation of diamond rings as symbols of lasting love would undoubtedly influence mass audiences.

Ayer took the strategy further than movies, placing stories and society photographs about diamonds, creating extravagant ads in elite magazines, and even enlisting Queen Elizabeth to promote the royalty of diamonds.

By 1948, when the copy line "A Diamond Is Forever" appeared, Ayer's campaign had already helped increase the sale of diamonds in the US by 55%. The agency and De Beers continued to innovate. Ayer used the successful movie-placement strategy to again influence programming, this time in a new emerging medium—television. The agency also created a "Diamond Information Bureau"—in essence, a self-serving publicity arm distributing volumes of material about diamonds that wound up in newspapers and magazines.

Today, "A Diamond Is Forever" lives on as the official slogan of the Diamond Trading Company, the De Beers Group's marketing arm. De Beers calls its tag line the "forevermark" (www.forevermark.com). The slogan is still the basis for contemporary campaigns that extol the virtues of diamond engagement rings.

"A Diamond Is Forever" remains an enduring symbol of how an advertising message can have an extraordinary impact on the value people place on an object—and how that value can reflect society's values.

Breakaway Campaigns Endure

The breakaway campaign should be designed to last for five years or more. This doesn't mean it becomes trite or boring; rather, it evolves to a new place.

"Got milk?" stays fresh by reinventing itself with variations on the theme, as in a series of ads that shows a number of creative and amusing ways to shake up a bottle of chocolate milk. The tag line, "got chocolate milk?" is a smart way to extend the campaign without deadening the original's quirky appeal. At the same time, it promotes a product (chocolate milk) that is an extension of the brand itself (milk).

"A Diamond Is Forever" continues to be as relevant now as it was over 40 years ago. The love story has been modernized: In one ad, a man is shown proclaiming his love for a woman by first shouting it in a public square, and then presenting her with a diamond anniversary ring. The messaging about the quality of the diamond is no less prominent in the contemporary television and print advertising that still appears today.

Keeping a campaign fresh and vibrant—and maintaining its breakaway status—is a major challenge. The competitive landscape is turbulent and consumer perceptions are constantly shifting. It takes courage and perseverance to sustain a breakaway campaign over decades.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barry Silverstein (barry@thebreakawaybrand.com) is a senior vice-president at Arnold Worldwide, a leading U.S. advertising agency. He is coauthor of the new McGraw-Hill book The Breakaway Brand (www.thebreakawaybrand.com).