This blog contains no milk.

Not a drop.

You know what else contains no milk?

The very popular, and also profitable, protein shake also known as “Muscle Milk.”

As you can see in the image to your right, right under the name of the product which includes the word “milk”, it says, “Contains no milk.”

Kind of silly, right?  And obviously strategic.  The company is playing partly to the connotation that milk is good for you, and partly to those non-dairy drinkers out there who want anything but milk in their mouths.

Nestlé even challenged the makers of MM over this issue, to which the company responded saying it wasn’t misleading and that the name was a “trademark” and therefore not false advertising.

Don’t you hate that kind of corporate advertising crap?

We all do.

But yet it works.

Muscle Milk, Diet Coke, Vitamin Water (why is it so many beverages?) are just a few examples of stretching the truth to make the sale . . . and I’m sure it bugs you as much as it bugs me.  It feels a little icky, no?

But if it’s proven to work, would you do it?

I see this in the theater all the time too . . . with shows billed as the “#1 INSERT TYPE OF SHOW HERE on Broadway!” or “Tony Award Winning NAME OF SHOW” (when the Tony Award was for something like Sound Design).  I’ve even seen some shows suggest that they were Broadway shows, even though they weren’t even close. (Ok, maybe they were close in location, but that’s about it.)

And sure, I’ll admit, I’ve used these kind of tactics a few times in my career . . . but it always feels a little ooky.

A Broadway Ad Exec. once said to me, “My job is to get the butt in the seat.  By any means necessary.  Your job, Mr. Producer, is to make sure they love the show, so they don’t care how they got in the seat.”

See what I mean about the ooky factor?

I’m not going to come out with a strong opinion on this one, one way or the other.  Because frankly, I’m not sure how I feel.

I’m writing this blog to find out how you feel.  So tell me.  How far is too far?  Is Muscle Milk unethical?  How far would you go to sell tickets for your show . . . in order to get your investors their money back and keep people employed?

Comment below, cuz I am curious.

 

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Comments
  • Jupiter says:

    I have never bought Muscle Milk. Why? Because I can read. Because I’m smart enough to separate hype from quality.

    Occasionally I get roped in, but when that happens it just makes me hate whatever I got roped into even more. I go on the rampage, hating on blogs and to my friends. It’s not pretty.

    So while this kind of marketing works for lots of people who apparently don’t give much thought to what they digest – artistically or nutritionally – there are some discerning folks for whom this kind of marketing is an instant turn-off.

    Incidentally, I’d rather just drink Mountain Dew. I don’t need to fool myself that I’m being healthy.

  • Amy Leigh says:

    Simple – never apply a word like “Best”, “Most” or “#1” to something that can be proven false with little fact-finding. Try harder. Be different. Maybe then, you can actually earn those titles.

  • I believe honesty is extremely important, period. However, I’m totally okay with a play on words and a disclaimer to go with it, like Muscle Milk. I have no issues with the name Muscle Milk cause I understand it and think it’s clever (though I’ve never drank it, I wouldn’t be opposed to it). And since a show claiming to be number #1 wont influence me to go see it, that type of advertising doesn’t bother me either. Nonetheless, lying is lying. So if someone says “Tony Award Winning” when it was only nominated, that’s too far, it’s just… ooky, lol.

  • Tim Heitman says:

    I’m not selling in NY, I’m in Southern California, but I wish I could move us a little more toward David Merrick. We are FAR toooo conservative. That being said I think you can be outrageous and NOT disingenuous at the same time. Flashy and bold without lying. A promoter who has to resort to lying doesn’t have a very well supplied tool belt.

  • RLewis says:

    Context and Expectation. They are the 2 most important concepts when marketing a show. If you get a butt in a seat under false pretenses, even a great show can be a downer. It’ a “different strokes…” issue, and nothing kills word-of-mouth faster.

  • I’m willing to highlight certain things that may be pushing the truth– preferably with an explanation.

    I’m writing a press release for a dating survey today with a controversial headline– and the survey results are less controversial than I’d like, but they will be highlighted in the story below.

    In most cases, I’m not sure who you’re hurting– although I’m surprised muscle milk gets away with that name.
    Some of my favorite products when I was vegetarian changed great names– Nayonaise and Fakin Bacon– to something bland and generic, presumably because of problems with the FDA.

    I like Muscle Milk. Used it when I had dental surgery and couldn’t eat solids– glad it’s not milk, that would have been difficult.

    In most cases, I don’t think marketing hype hurts anyone. I could claim that my book “Write a Book Without Lifting a Finger” is a bestseller, as it’s the bestselling book on ghostwriting– out of four titles.

    Who would it hurt? With all the hype, the people with brand name success just need to be specific– “NY Times Bestseller,” “Tony Award Winner for Best Musical,” etc.

  • peter tear says:

    If your show is good – and you know – really!- that it is – sell it any way you want cos no one -NO ONE- will be disappointed!
    If you’re doubtful- sell it straight and punters will choose to go – or not! And they won’t hate you for the next one!
    Peter Tear

  • Peter Saxe says:

    Well, the case of Muscle Milk is an interesting one.

    The word ‘milk’ doesn’t just refer to ‘the liquid that comes from mammals to feed their young.’ It has long ago become a generic word for ‘essence’ or ‘nectar’

    The expression “It’s like Mother’s Milk to Me” can refer to any comforting food or beverage,” although how many of us as adults remember what their mother’s milk tastes like?

    Other commodities that are dairy free:

    Milk of Magnesia
    Milk of Human Kindness

    As a verb, ‘to Milk’ can be used to describe a cow, a snake of it’s venom, and errr… a Man

    As for Diet Coke… well having no calories, it is a diet beverage.

    If a show wins a Tony Award for Sound, it IS a Tony Winning show. If a show sweeps the Tonys only for it’s technical elements, it is still a multi-Tony Award winning show.

    On the other hand, on what basis does a show call itself “Broadway’s #1 Show” or “Broadway’s Best Show?” That’s where the ‘ooky’ comes in. I guess anybody can call a show “Broadway’s #1 because an opinion doesn’t have to be qualified.

    Okay, now I’m craving Milk and Cookies!!

  • janiska says:

    I’ve never had Muscle Milk because I don’t like fake anything, and it is obviously fake milk. It says so right on the container.
    I am not immune to false advertising or overuse of hyperbole, but I don’t like to be tricked into anything. I am wary of products that describe themselves in hyperbole.
    Ad Execs should guard themselves from ranking with politicians on the “ooky” scale.

  • Michael DiGaetano says:

    I’ve always been bothered when a really bad movie opens up and the ad the following weekend says “The Number One Comedy In AMerica” because I know that it was the only comedy that opened that week and it will be replaced in three days by the next “Number One Comedy in America”.

  • ken marion says:

    There is a lot of dishonesty around us. There is a lot of laughing at tragedy. There is plenty of honoring of those who lie. We who struggle for higher standards just have to keep trying.

  • I hadn’t heard of Muscle Milk before this blog, but upon seeing it, I found it a funny product name, and I would not have assumed it had anything to do with real milk.
    *the blog, by the way, begins by saying: “This blog contains no milk.” Yet the word “milk” appears 11 times… So perhaps you meant there is milk, but it is uncontained?
    As for Broadway, I think we’ve maxed it out with 3 words, which I’ll admit to feeling a rare twinge of jealousy at when I first saw them on the BoM marquee:
    “God’s Favorite Musical!”

  • gj says:

    it all SUCKS! Because you know who’s on the receiving end of the deceptioon? The people on the stage.

    That’s right, the actors have to deal with interruptions of the perfs by people leaving early (usually from the center of the row), cursing loudly at the House Mgr. or the boxoffice when they try to get their money back.

    They do this because they’ve been misled by the advertising, hype, what-have-you. And when they realize the “family comedy” they brought their kids too is laced with F-words or the big stars promised are “out” of the show (with no notice) they get PISSED!

    Sadly, the people that cause this myriad of nightmares are laughing all the way to the bank. It’s time that the audience fought back, got some lawyers and took it to the liars for a change.

    That’s be the day, huh?

  • Kim says:

    Advertisers make a big mistake when they resort to lying or stretching the truth to get customers. At the smallest level, you’ve upset people and they go away wishing they’d never spent their money (which let’s face it, we’ve all become so accustomed to that we’ve accepted it as the norm). At the worst level, you are endangering customers’ lives either with hidden ingredients or putting them in dangerous physical situations.
    Either way, it’s desperation. I’ll take honesty, creative ingenuity and comic intelligence any day because it makes me want to find out more. People can sense when something is fishy.
    Flashing lights, giant fonts and splashy quotes just make me tired.
    The theatre community should do better.

  • Tom says:

    I agree with Kim really. Honesty wins through – give people credit, they can spot hype a mile off and it’s only fantastic shows which can hope to sell. Focus on creating a great product and then look at what customers are saying about it to develop tools to spread that word of mouth further.

  • Esther says:

    I wrote a blog post recently on 3 examples that really made me angry.

    One is when a touring production is advertised as “Tony-winning” when it was either just nominated or when the Tony went to an actor who most assuredly will not be on the tour!

    A second was an e-mail from a regional theatre with a discount code for “the best seats in the house” which were at the back of the orchestra and decidedly not the best seats.

    The third was a regional theatre production of a new play that the New York Times supposedly praised. The medical-themed drama was actually praised by a doctor who writes for the Times’ wellness blog. Hardly the same as a rave from a drama critic!

  • Ted K says:

    I especially dislike (in advertising, program bios and resumes) the misuse of the terms “Award-winning” and “professional”. Either identify the specific award or don’t use the phrase. Also “professional” should imply “Equity”, not the fact that someone paid you $25 a weekend to be a guest artist in a high school production of “Oklahoma”.

    Oh, and one other — “tickets going fast”. They are or they aren’t. If I get a ticket based on that and the house is one-fourth full, I’m not coming back .. and I AM telling all my friends.

  • A Contrarian says:

    The “hard sell” makes me run in the opposite direction.

  • A Contrarian says:

    I’ve had more than a few burritos at that place on 9th Av. with Soy Cheese and Tofu Sour Cream. Soy Milk isn’t “milk” and “sour cream” isn’t made with Tofu.

    Muscle Milk is “milk” for muscles. I don’t think it’s an issue of misrepresentation. Now, the far more important problem is what you’re NOT told is actually in the product. And in Broadway’s case, I’d say language, nudity, graphic acts… all are cause for resentment if not disclosed to the audience.

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Ken Davenport
Ken Davenport

Tony Award-Winning Broadway Producer

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