Oct 08

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.