Friday, 8 March 2019

Fresh From Battle Creek

We begin with a postcard from 1958 on which an impressed visitor from South Africa writes home with an account of a visit to the Kellogg’s factory in Battle Creek, Michigan. Unlike many of its competitors, the Kellogg Company has retained its independence and still resides in Battle Creek, where it was founded in 1898. As the postcard illustrates, it has a global presence and there are very few countries where its products are not on sale. It operates in an ultra-competitive market and pioneered the inclusion of free collectable figures and toys in its packages. Offering modest books of pictures and stories for children in return for a nominal sum was another successful strategy in popularising the product with children. Brand characters played their part from Snap! Crackle! and Pop! (Rice Krispies) to Tony the Tiger (Frosties) while established cartoon characters such as Yogi Bear were drafted in on an as-required basis, all to embed themselves in the affections of juvenile consumers. Their efforts were probably more effective on television than they were in print. The logo has been regularly and subtly remodelled but remains recognisable as the signature-based original from 1900. And there’s a Kellogg’s Sans font to support the corporate identity. Movie tie-ins are the staple of today’s promotional activity.

Kellogg’s print advertising is unspectacular but persistent. Sometimes directed exclusively to the junior end of the market – at other times focused on the needs and anxieties of adults. The message to adults is often designed to exploit fears about physical health with a special emphasis on regular bowel movements. Mothers are frequently reminded of their parental responsibilities for child welfare with an implication that a child without Kellogg’s in her diet is a victim of neglect. The use of slogans and taglines is functional but not especially imaginative – few, if any, have passed into popular culture. This survey is concentrated on the period 1930 to 1960 and the only slogan with any staying power seems to be The best to you each morning. Efforts such as The Grains are Great Foods or Mother Knows (Kellogg’s) Best are justly forgotten. The invention of the Variety pack – 5 types of cereal, 10 small servings, all wrapped in cellophane was a masterstroke. Smaller quantities and increased packaging boosted margins while the direct appeal to children made life difficult for parents in the supermarket.

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