Murky Muscle Milk (Ew)

I have had a large box of Muscle Milk sitting in my kitchen (in a house full of eleven girls it remains largely untouched, though it has been an interesting conversation starter at times) almost all year. Where did I get it? One of my friends works for Muscle Milk. I’ve seen her around campus a few times, clad in all black, riding in the passenger seat of the Muscle Milk car.

If you haven’t seen it driving around yet, take a peek.

She has showed up at our university’s athletic field to give the athletes free samples. I even saw her and her Muscle Milk posse at a house on Spring Fling, our spring concert, giving out free samples. Muscle Milk and beer on a hot day, what could be better? (Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.)

Recently, I came across this “music video” for Muscle Milk.

So, already we have some very evident murketing in the Muscle Milk campaign. First of all, the Muscle Milk car is a moving advertisement. And I would guess that it is no mistake that the car of choice is a jeep. Muscle Milk is a “sporting drink” and thus it seems in order to target this “sporty” population that would drink a “sporty” drink, Muscle Milk advertisers chose a jeep, a car that already has an established “sporty” identity and association.

This leads to my next observation. In his book, Buying In, Walker describes the case of the Timberland boot. Sidney Swartz, the original creator of the Timberland boot, developed a boot for the average, honest, hardworking, blue-color individual. However, the boot was soon embraced by an urban, Hip Hop and R&B population. Walker refers to this as bottom-up marketing, when a group embraces a brand and defines the meaning of the brand themselves, regardless of the efforts of the producers of the brand to cultivate a different meaning. This is an important phenomenon in the new murky world of marketing, and marketers are faced with the challenge of adapting to and maintaining this newly determined meaning of their brand.

What does this have to do with Muscle Milk? Well, thats for us to find out.

Take a look at the Muscle Milk website. Turns out Muscle Milk is a larger company called CytoSport. CytoSport describes itself as a “premier manufacturer of sports-oriented nutritional products that address the needs of athletes and active lifestyle individuals at every level.” The website provides links to sponsored professional athletes as well as colleges that it is associated with, under the tab “Team Cyto”. Cyto Sport even has a special line, “Muscle Milk Collegiate” to directly serve the needs of this young demographic. The last link under this tab identifies CytoSport’s partners, training facilities and sports teams, including the Yahoo! Cycling Team. (Yahoo! has a cycling team? I can’t keep up with all this murketing…) Muscle Milk also sponsors a auto racing team, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport.

I could go on and on, but clearly, Muscle Milk is rapidly adapting to and capitalizing on the murkiness of today’s marketing environment.

However, I wonder how murky marketing is affecting them. Let’s return to their music video. It hardly screams healthy, professional athletes training for competition, as their website boasts. Rather, it seems more in line with the Muscle Milk truck showing up at Spring Fling at Tufts. What’s going on here?

Perhaps the population that is embracing Muscle Milk is not the professional or competitive athletes CytoSport seems to focus on. Maybe Muscle Milk Collegiate fits more effectively into the population of “guido” spring-breakers hoping to tone (and tan) their muscles to increase their chances of picking up a hot chick. The music video seems to suggest that this may be the case, as it blatantly pokes fun of this population of people.

Perhaps, however, Muscle Milk marketers know that bottom-up murketing is at work here, and know that this population could in fact help them, even if it is not what they originally intended. This play hard, party hard, pump-iron hard population may be just what they need.

I bet the majority of Muscle Milk marketers cracked a smile at the line:

“But wait, before we get reckless, gotta look in the mirror and go over our checklist. My arms… are ridiculous, check. My legs… are ridiculous, check. My abs are all tight like their ready for business.”

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