by Amanda Roberts

Cereal is commonplace on the American breakfast table. Though over 90% of US families stock their pantries with the popular breakfast food, companies have a hard time getting consumers excited about it, and in recent years cold cereal sales have lagged. To reinvigorate their brand, General Mills launched National Cereal Week in October 2013 highlighting the weeklong event with their “Hello, Cereal Lovers” social media campaign. Through clever interaction with consumers online and in person, General Mills made this breakfast food cool again.

Spearheaded by McCann Always On, the “Hello, Cereal Lovers” campaign’s main purpose was to promote National Cereal Week and to build a cereal-lovers community, both of which would hopefully lead to increased sales for General Mills. To accomplish this, pages and accounts were created on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest, along with the main hellocereallovers.com. The plan was simple: ask consumers to post why they love cereal. Through pictures, recipes, and text posts, General Mills began to curate their own advertisements alongside user-generated content. Consumer posts ranged from pictures of untraditional cereal bowls to full pieces of artwork made entirely from Cheerios. Social media was the ideal place to connect with a large subset of millennial consumers, people who are more inclined to eat cereal at all (sometimes strange) hours of the day and see the product as something more than just a breakfast food. Being digital natives, this group would be more inclined to interact with General Mills online to build the campaign.

1621691_590333877724686_575323544_nBesides promoting the general awesome-ness of cereal, General Mills also used the “Hello, Cereal Lovers” campaign to highlight the increased nutritional values of its brand. In fact, the very first Facebook post is an infographic displaying the decreased sugar levels in General Mills cereals since 2007.

The “Hello, Cereal Lovers” campaign’s success is reflected in the follower data. It’s biggest following is on Facebook, where it has reached 647,306 likes over three years. The Twitter account boasts a robust 21,300 followers, while the still-growing Instagram and Pinterest have 847 and 282 respectively. Looking at the hard-data, General Mills saw a 4% increase in sales in its first fiscal quarter after the launch of the campaign.

Stepping away from numbers, the “Cereal Lovers” campaign was successful because it did not take itself too seriously. One example came this July, when they challenged their followers to tweet #CerealPresidents in honor of Independence day, yielding results like “Cinnamon Taft Crunch” and “Richard Kixon.” They also were upfront about their desire to promote their breakfast food as a whole, even going as far as to label themselves as “brand agnostic,” and utilizing cereals outside of the General Mills family. This kind of camaraderie is appealing to consumers as it distracts from the fact that at the end of the day, social media campaigns are competitive advertisements. Including other brands pulled the focus towards quality content instead of selling a product.

If there were one improvement to be made to this winning effort, it would be for the “Cereal Lovers” pages to re-tweet and re-post content more clearly. It is hard to differentiate between user-generated content and content created by the campaign. The Tumblr page boasts an impressive amount of material, but it is unclear whether General Mills made the content, or they pulled it from their followers. Engagement with the consumers would be enhanced if “Cereal” gave more recognition to the people posting instead of blending it into the other content on the pages.

“Hello, Cereal Lovers” was quirky and effective at its conception in 2012, and continues to be a solid social media force today in 2015. In all of its different forms from sugary-sweet to almost savory, cereal is breaking out as more than just a breakfast food. Consumers already like cereal, and social media campaigns like “Cereal Lovers” will help them see it in different ways.

References

ADAM NEWMAN, A. (2013, July 24). Online, a Cereal Maker Takes an Inclusive Approach. New York Times. p. B5.

General Mills embraces social media. (2013, July 25). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.warc.com/LatestNews/News/General_Mills_embraces_social_media.news?ID=31708

Lukovitz, K. (2013, October 10). General Mills Launches National Cereal Lovers Week. Retrieved February 9, 2015, from         http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/211055/general-mills-launches-national-cereal-lovers-week.html

Hello, Cereal Lovers. (n.d.). Retrieved February 9, 2015, from http://www.mccannalwayson.com/hellocereallovers/

PR, N. (2013, October 14). National Cereal Lovers Week Raises a Spoon to Celebrate Cereal Fans Everywhere. PRNewswire US.