‘Got Milk Guy’ Tom Nagle Talks Gen Z Marketing at Food Forum Meeting


Last week, Tom Nagle joined Food Forum members, scholars and food and nutrition experts to explore adolescent well-being. Tom’s presentation focused on methods for marketing healthy behaviors to adolescents.

As a firm, Statler Nagle believes in the power of values-based marketing, and Tom used this context to explain why generational marketing for him, “Is more about how and not really why.” Societal circumstances are constantly changing, but core values are always going to be something that people connect with, no matter their age or generation. Tom uses a means-end framework for decision-making in his work, which can connect food attributes to personal values by way of tangible benefits and emotional outcomes.

To drive his point home, Tom showed a commercial by the Marine Corps that evokes a higher-order benefit driven by deeply-rooted values. Playing on the emotion that some men and women may desire to be a warrior paves the way toward the core value of belonging. Tom argued that this emotional appeal to an innate value was a much more effective tactic than simply listing out facts and information (attributes and benefits) about being in the Marine Corps.

Gen Z’s lifestyle is defined by their unprecedented use of social media (47% of Gen Z uses YouTube for more than 3 hours a day according to Newswhip!). Research also shows that Gen Z is committed to speaking with more than words – in fact, they are ready to be activated on the channels that they are already using.

In Tom’s perspective, this means that crafting the perfect message to get Gen Z to adopt healthier behaviors involves a combination of values and emotions with a clear call to action.

The forum was held at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington D.C. and encompassed the various aspects of adolescent nutrition and well-being. Elizabeth Cauffman of University of California, Irvine started off the morning with a presentation on the psychological aspect of adolescent health by explaining the stages of brain development and the behavior changes that come along with this. Nicole Larson of the University of Minnesota spoke next, outlining the specific nutritional needs that growing teens have and how their physical growth and development depends on the intake of these nutrients. Mimi Tatlow-Golden from The Open University in the United Kingdom followed by delving into the ways identities and social norms impact dietary behaviors.

The final portion of the morning went in depth on marketing communications that foster healthy environments for adolescents. Monica Anderson of the Pew Research Center and Kathryn Montgomery of the Center for Digital Democracy and American University led the conversation alongside Tom.

Thank you to the Food Forum for including us, and to the other speakers for sharing their interesting perspectives.