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Press Release: California Milk Uses Narrative Analytics to Gain Deep Consumer Insight to Drive a New Campaign

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, JULY 7, 2015 - The California Milk Advisory Board’s (CMAB) objective is to promote California dairy products in a highly competitive marketplace. This requires developing compelling communications and advertising messages that resonate with diverse audiences, whether through print, radio, television, or online media.

In 2014, the CMAB enlisted the services of Monitor 360, a San Francisco-based Narrative Analytics™ + Strategy company, to apply its proprietary methodology to gain insights into how consumers think about key topics related to milk and dairy, as well as the state of California itself.

“Our objective was to create a new campaign that would connect deeply with consumers, and ultimately drive an increase in purchases of California milk products” says John Talbot, CEO of CMAB. “Like many CPG and food companies, we had a lot of data and information about the consumer but it can be challenging to make sense of it. We engaged Monitor 360 to provide foundational insights that would help guide our creative strategy, by tapping into the underlying beliefs and assumptions that consumers have about milk based products and California. Through their Narrative Analytics approach, Monitor 360 was able to surface ‘beliefs at scale’ to feed our creative development process and give us confidence in our strategic direction.”

Step 1: Assessing the Landscape

Monitor 360 began its Narrative Analytics™ process by reviewing content from different online channels. Using powerful data analysis tools, Monitor 360’s analysts were able to ingest digital “conversations” about dairy and California at a massive scale, including 1.9 million blog posts, 3.9 million news items, and 125 million tweets and posts published over a one-year span.

Each channel provided unique value in uncovering insights and trends. “Blog posts are ideal for identifying and understanding narratives held by the general public, as they tend to be unprompted and unfiltered,” explains Doug Randall, CEO of Monitor 360. “At the same time, social media provides a remarkable window into how narratives get amplified and triggered by certain events. And news media reveals the ‘top-down’ narratives consumers are exposed to that impact their attitudes and beliefs.”

2. A Picture Emerges

Next, using both machine-driven and human analysis, Monitor 360 identified a range of rich narratives representing consumer’s underlying beliefs, as expressed in online content. Narratives provide a powerful lens into what drives consumer attitudes and behavior.

The dairy landscape revealed nine narratives, including“ Innovative Dairy”” and “America Screams for Ice Cream,” each reflecting a different belief about dairy products and their role in our lives. Monitor 360’s analysts then assessed the relative strength of each narrative among different audiences, and used “footprint analysis” to understand each narrative’s connection to specific products (e.g., milk, ice cream, butter).

Similarly, the California landscape revealed nine narratives, showing a diversity of beliefs about the state and what it represents to people. Those narratives included “California Connections” and “Most Beautiful Place on Earth.”

3. Setting a Direction

As a result of this analysis, Monitor 360 was able to provide CMAB with a clear direction for their future marketing. Monitor 360 analyzed the dairy and California Narrative Landscapes to determine which narratives could best be leveraged by CMAB to resonate deeply with consumers.

This process resulted in the development of a “Narrative Architecture,” identifying strategies for attaching to positive narratives, reframing problematic ones, and creating “white space” for the creation of new narratives. Monitor 360 also analyzed how each channel could be used to best convey specific messages. For example, social media has unique potential to communicate the “Culinary Journey” narrative from farm to table, or a visual television campaign can showcase the beauty and transformative power of dairy as captured in the “Getting Back to Real Food” narrative. The analysis also shed light on how CMAB could amplify consumer events like “National Ice Cream Day” to build awareness for California dairy products.


The California Milk Advisory Board took its marketing to a new level by partnering with Monitor 360 and taking advantage of its powerful Narrative Analytics methodology. With the evidence-based insights and strategies generated in this project, CMAB has already begun to develop marketing messages that it’s confident will resonate deeply, leveraging the underlying beliefs that consumers already hold. CMAB is currently implementing an innovative strategy that combines two of the highest impact narratives to create a “new narrative” that is highly differentiated for consumers.

According to Talbot, “Monitor 360’s Narrative Analytics process took information from millions of data sources - news to blogs to social media- to uncover the big-picture story about dairy and California. Those data driven insights have become a core part of our strategy to reach consumers in a way that excites them and compels them to buy California milk based products. We ultimately chose to connect with and merge two compelling narratives, thereby creating a message in the market that was simultaneously familiar and highly original. We used Narrative Analytics as a foundation to develop messaging for mass media, social media, content, press and every other way we can. It’s that powerful.”


Monitor 360 is the Narrative Analytics™ and Strategy company that brings clarity to complex, cross-disciplinary strategic challenges through Narrative Analytics™ - a systematic approach to understand, quantify, shape, and monitor narratives. We combine social science and data science to surface "beliefs at scale" and allow leaders to harness narratives to their advantage to manage brand reputations, launch new products, fuel advocacy campaigns, and create breakthrough strategic plans. We can’t tell you about everything we do, but if it’s a hard, fast-moving narrative problem, we’re probably working on it (in 40+ countries) whether it’s for a major corporation, foundation, or the White House.

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