As we’re based only a stone’s throw away from the Kelloggs Factory and UK HQ in Manchester’s illustrious Trafford Park (did you know that Mancunians came up with the irresistible ‘Crunchy Nut Cornflakes in 1980?), One Agency are today taking a look at the most marketed meal of the day… cereal.
The History Of Breakfast
A good breakfast is hard to beat. Whether it’s pancakes, waffles, cereal or fruit, perhaps you’re a full English fry-up kind of person, or maybe smashed avo and poached egg on toast is more your thing – let’s face it, the ever popular brunch phenomenon is one we can all get behind. But it wasn’t always this way.
The Romans only ate one meal a day, and the Medievals believed that breakfast was a luxury only for the rich. By the time the Industrial Revolution had come around, schedules and structure encouraged labourers to eat a meal early on in the day before work began. Before long, breakfast had become an American institution, but not as we know it today. People wanted meat, cake and potatoes for their first meal of the day, and this led to inevitable health problems. An obvious recipe for bad health, this called for a lighter, more simple serving; and thus, cereal was born.
Dr Kellogg, who was fiercely religious, thought that meals should never be gluttonous or full of vice. He believed that a diet centred on bland foods like cereal would lead Americans away from sin, so he set about making the original ‘cornflake’ formula, which came in the form of an unappetising dry ‘rock’, which needed to be soaked in milk.
Eventually, Dr Kelloggs’ brother took over, and despite a lot of disgruntlement from his pious sibling, added the 2 key ingredients which produced the controversial recipe we know and hate to love today; sugar and advertising.
Since then, production processes have developed so much so, that even some of the most healthy-looking cereals are secretly laden with sugar and additives. With this in mind, how have the big boys kept up their health reputation?
Taking the form of many guises, marketing stepped in to work its magic.
A 1944 cereal marketing campaign was launched by General Foods, the manufacturer of Grape Nuts, to sell more cereal. The campaign was named ‘Eat A Good Breakfast – Do A Better Job’, and throughout the operation, grocery stores handed out leaflets to promote the importance of breakfast. Meanwhile, radio advertisements announced that ‘nutrition experts say breakfast is the most important meal of the day’. While the nutritional facts here are a longstanding debate, it turns out that this well-known mantra was actually first coined together for marketing purposes and to maximise sales.
Cereal and Controversial Health Claims.
Throughout the decades, cereal has battled for health claims and has regularly come into controversial advertising clashes. Take a look at the ‘Special K Challenge’ promotion, which recommended that in order to lose weight quickly, you should replace two of your meals each day with a 45g bowl of Special K and skimmed milk. This strict dieting strategy was slammed for its ‘quick-fix’ attitude to something which should implement a long-term program, but also sparked outrage when it came to light that the diet had resulted in eating disorders in young teenagers. This insinuates an irresponsible attitude to marketing, and suggests that the advert reached further than the obvious target audience.
We can only imagine the sort of damage this 1984 ‘Pinch an Inch’ advert did to self-esteem.
Cereal and Sexism
In 2018, Hannah-Marie, a year 6 schoolgirl challenged Coco Pops to change their ‘sexist’ message. Finding the slogan, ‘loved by kids, approved by mums’ sexist, she said, “it made me think that dads should be included as well because they are important too. Also some people don’t have a mum and they might find it upsetting…I would recommend instead of putting ‘mums’, put parents or carers. It would just mean a small change. In this world today we shouldn’t just rely on women.” A compelling argument, Kelloggs were persuaded to change the slogan to ‘approved by parents’.
Cereal Marketing and Advertising To Children
Today, advertising standards aim to crack down on junk food messages to children, whereby adverts must not ‘advertise high salt, fat or sugar foods to children’. In 2018, Kelloggs were seen to break these rules, as the ASA found they had promoted a Coco Pops product during a cartoon likely to be seen by children. Kelloggs appealed the ban, arguing that this ‘granola’ product was a healthier version of the original product, however, ASA claimed that the branding was still too similar.
Cereal brands employ a number of techniques to advertise to children, but there’s one ‘grrrreat’ method in particular which seems to serve a recipe for success. Taking on a worrying persona of both friendly and enticing, characters serve to draw in children and evoke a sense of nostalgia in their parents.
Have you ever felt watched as you browse the cereal aisle? Yale University found that the gazes looking down from popular kids’ cereal characters are specifically designed to catch the eye of small passers-by. They carried out a test with one such character, ‘Trix the Rabbit’, using two different designs; one which created eye contact from the shelf and another which averted a gaze elsewhere. The study found that the design which made eye-contact increased feelings of ‘trust’ by more than 16% and a sense of connectivity was 28% higher – even more interestingly, participants even said that they liked the cereal more.
A key insight to successful marketing comes from an essential drip-feed of brand loyalty, and more than ever, this applies to the habitual nature of breakfast and morning routine, attributing to the success of cereal marketing.