Friday, November 12, 2010

News from the corporate world #1: The back of a cereal box

There's a lot I could say about this text taken from the back of a box of Honey Bunches of Oats, but I feel like anything I did say would only detract from it. So, suffices to say, I think it's very weirdly honest. Here it is in its entirety. I only wish I could approximate the folksy font and presentation better, because that makes it even more super weird.
Vern had a big idea! Vernon J. Herzing started working for Post Cereals in 1951, as a summer student working in the factory. He joined Post full-time in 1960 and, in 1976, was named a facility manager in Battle Creek, Michigan. Vern wanted to create a product that combined cereals from one of Post's facilities--where, in 1986, we manufactured C.W. Post (a granola-based product), Toasties, Grape-Nuts Flakes, and Sugar Sparkle Flakes (a frosted corn flake product). He wondered if, by combining these different cereals, he could create a new product--one that would outsell all the others. One Saturday afternoon at home, Vern asked his 18-year old daughter Kimberly to help him prepare different cereal mixtures. They weighed and mixed the different components of cereal and began to sample the combinations, ultimately picking a favorite.

Battle Creek Cereal? The next step was to figure out what to call the product. First, the Post Team came up with "Battle Creek Cereal," but research showed that many consumers didn't like the name, although the product itself earned top marks. At the time, no cereal on the market offered those kinds of mixed textures. So the team presented their dilemma to Eva Page, a Post brand manager. Eva tasted the cereal and said, "The cereal is exactly what it looks like, granola and flakes." She took another bite and then asked, "To make it more exciting, can you put honey in the granola? And the granola is made with oats, right? So," said Eva, "the concept is Honey Bunches of Oats and Flakes." This time, consumers loved the name, and wanted to know where they could buy it! The project was back on track, with a product officially dubbed Honey Bunches of Oats. Later Eva asked, "How can we make it more of an all-family cereal?" The research team suggested adding Post Sugar Sparkle Flakes to the blend, a solution that provided some sweetness to the taste.

Finally, it all came together! After three years of development--most of the time spent searching for a concept--Honey Bunches of Oats cereal hit the market in 1989. During its first year, the product garnered an impressive share of the total cereal market, and was considered a runaway success. Honey Bunches of Oats cereal has grown to become one of the top-selling cereals in America today.


Randal Graves said...

They *didn't* like Battle Creek Cereal? I knew this country's gone soft!

Anonymous said...

If only they'd named it Antietam Creek and made it so it turned the cereal milk blood-red... success, war-nostalgia style!

AlanSmithee said...

Exactly! They just didn't go far enough with the name. If they'd called it, say, "Shredded Entrails of Our Enemies" or "Napalm Toasted Collateral Damage" or even "Friendly Fire Flakes" it would have been a much bigger hit.

Ethan said...

Haha, I think of all the suggestions "Friendly Fire Flakes" is my favorite.

I just find it bizarre that they'd think us "consumers" would be interested in the gripping tale of all the market research and "we need to sell something, but what" that went on before their product went on to outsell all the others.

Michael McFadden said...

It's probably no more complicated than that whoever wrote it finds marketing interesting. Or the stuff about the name could be an attempt to give the part dedicated to the careful crafting of a tasty cereal by dad and daughter some meta-scented truthiness.

what the Tee Vee taught said...

To me, this is the gem:

"After three years of development —— most of the time spent searching for a concept..."

a concept.

a concept.

a concept.

I can see the guy who spent the first 30 months heading the project, he got fucking fired. They brought in some young hot shot... conceptualized that shit within 6 months.

zencomix said...

semi-permeable cereal varnish

miguel said...

I can see the guy who spent the first 30 months heading the project, he got fucking fired.

I think he went on to become my last boss.

I used to hate bums like this. Now I think they're the ones who've got it figured out. Do nothing. Get paid. Wish I'd cracked that nut sooner.