Hooking the wrong fish

Kellogg's had me, hook, line and sinker. But, they couldn't reel me in because I'm the wrong fish.

Let me explain.

As I was section reading Monday's New York Times, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the back page of the front section.

It contained an exact replica of the Times' front page from 100 years ago: October 5, 1909. Being a history junkie, I was mesmerized as I scanned articles about a Wilbur Wright flight up the Hudson River, a celebration of Anglo-American relations at the Waldorf-Astoria and a curious feature about New York's death rate, entitled, 'Town too busy for suicide.'

As I read, I wondered why the Times was reprinting the century-old front page. Then, finally, I scanned down to the bottom and saw a vintage ad from Kellogg's, entitled: 'For more than 100 years Kellogg's Corn Flakes has been a great way to start the day.'

Wow, thought I, how totally smart on Kellogg's part. They totally broke through to connect with me. But, then, I thought: hold on. I don't buy cereal for my family. My wife does. So, does this ad 'work' if it creates an emotional connection with the wrong target audience?

I'm not sure. But, I do know the Kellogg's ad underscores why traditional advertising is struggling so mightily. It's not cost effective and has way too much waste built into the model. I'd guess a full-page ad in the Times costs about $100,000. And, I'm sure the paper's circulation is still well over 1 million readers. But, how many readers are responsible for buying cereal for their families? How many buy generic cereal to save costs? How many are loyal to another brand? And, how many 'brand agnostic' buyers might the ad convince to try Kellogg's? My guess is very few.

Bottom-line: great concept. Wrong strategy. Kellogg's should redistribute its traditional advertising budget and find ways to reach the right consumer at the right time and in the right way. And, I'm not talking about Wilbur Wright.

4 thoughts on “Hooking the wrong fish

  1. Steve, The Kellogs did connect with a passion of yours and that is why you were stopped dead in your tracks with their add. The problem is you don’t really care about cereal. I am pretty confident not too many people list cereal as one of their greatest passions. If Kellogs wanted to sell cereal to the Cody family and all the history buffs out there they should have passed on the NY Times and put all the content from the ad on the boxes themselves. I am guessing your wife knows about your passion for history? The next time she walked down the cereral aisle she would have noticed the packaging and thought of you. If she is not too passionate about her current cereal of choice I am willing to bet she would pick Kellogs this time because it would be a nice way to show you that she was thinking of you.

  2. Hey Robert. Sorry I missed your post. I definitely influence my wife’s food purchasing so, yes, you are correct that I am a potential Kellogg’s target. I think the ad would have worked if it connected with a personal passion of mine: history, comedy, climbing, etc. For better or worse, cereal isn’t a personal turn-on.”

  3. Steve, Do you not have an influence on what your wife buys at the supermarket? If you saw something you really wanted to try would you not tell her? I think the challenge for Kellogs (which you noted) is that people do not have a cereal problem. They are either buying the generic to save money or they are loyal to their brand. While the ad connected to you it did not give you a remarkable reason to try their product. Being around for 100 years is something to be proud of but no one cares enough to change what is already working for them. Kellogs spent too much time and money thinking about themselves rather then focusing on being remarkable and their potential customers. Forgive me but I would make a huge bet that this concept would fail regardless of the strategy. But the good news is they will probably win an award for the ad.
    Interesting enough more women read the NY Times then men. See the link below.