Three cheers for Cheerios making it right

cheeriosloveLast April, we penned an entry which spoke of the wonder of Cheerios.

In our estimation, it has been the perfect cereal since birth, a spectacle of simplicity combining a healthy, any-time-of-day food option with surprising versatility for enjoyment beyond basic sustenance.

Our many tastes change with age – clothing, books, TV, music, movies – but not Cheerios. We’ve enjoyed it our entire lives, from birth to old age, and there aren’t many cereals or even entertainment options which can claim that.

Cheerios has securely been part of our lives. We love it. It loves us. Its round shape is practical, if not symbolic, a reminder of our eternal and endless love, which like a circle has no beginning and no end.

But then, like a marketing executive suddenly turned to the Jif Side of the Force, we noticed a bizarre, Kix-like web page that made us think otherwise.

It was as if Cheerios instantly soured to everyone – moms and dads, young and old, large and small – by showing favoritism to one and ignoring the other, trying to tear apart so many of us that shared this common, charming cereal bond.

That’s when we wrote about this marketing aberration which made us so confused and angry.

You may recall that at that time, Cheerios was actually getting a lot of praise for its dad-loving TV commercial, which may have been the reason its web-based dad exclusion flew under the radar.

We tried communicating with General Mills several times, but to no avail.

Fast forward to today, some nine months later, when we occasionally like to check up on our topics, and we were pleasantly surprised to discover that web graphic no longer exists at cheerios.com.

Eager to know more about the change, we reached out elsewhere, this time with the excellent Kirstie Foster, public relations and social media director at General Mills.

Through Foster’s mediation, Cheerios responded with the following:

Hi there! We’ve always thought the world of dads. Many factors led us to the decision that it was finally time to show it.

How about that? No, it wasn’t a direct shout out to dadmarketing, but we like to think we had a hand in the change.

We may be a small, upstart organization, but our influence and message shouldn’t be understated. Dads have been left out of the marketing messages too long, too often. Cheerios no doubt recognized that, and we’re proud of those involved with the change at General Mills.

Think about Jif’s “Choosy Moms Choose Jif.” How sexist and old fashioned is that?

Cheerios changed for the better, so why can’t Jif? Why can’t others?

We’ll keep beating the drum until others reach Cheerios status, and maybe together – through sharing, talking and communicating – we’ll help more of them become products we can stick with for a lifetime.

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Cake loss

Trying to rid the world of dad exclusion regarding anything kitchen related is like asking a Kardashian to stay away from a camera lens.

It’s a challenge, but dadmarketing came into being just for this.

(The dad stuff, not the Kardashians.)bettycrocker2bettycrocker1

Our latest offender is Betty Crocker, which should not come as all that surprising. But what is surprising is how Betty Crocker did it, and so very unnecessarily.

A quick look at the ad reveals nothing glaringly wrong. There aren’t any Kix-like, dad-excluding slogans plastered front-and-center. There aren’t any “Attention Mom” banners adorned at the top. The word “mom” really isn’t anywhere noticeable.

For a few brief moments we were actually overjoyed about the possibility of a column lauding Betty Crocker for not pushing the “baking is only for moms” agenda.

But then we read the fine print.

If you took the time to dig all the way through this copy-heavy, two-page spread from the September 2014 American Baby magazine, you’ll find that it’s really not directed at dads whatsoever, because Betty Crocker assures that after a day of baking, “you will look like Wondermom!”

How’s that for a red-spooned slap in the face, dads?

You see, venerable Betty Crocker, you may be surprised to know that some dads like to bake for their families. Dad doesn’t come home from work with mom waiting there and hot food on the table like it happened a few generations ago. What’s more, boys like to bake too, and you could learn a lot from Hasbro, makers of the Easy Bake Oven, who developed a boy-friendly version of their classic toy after one young girl simply spoke up.

Betty Crocker has been around for almost 100 years, and has been moderately progressive in modernizing their female likeness over time. But their treatment of dads in today’s modern world where fathers clearly do more than past generations makes them look stuck in the past.

No one should know better than Betty Crocker how the tiniest ingredient can alter an entire recipe. That’s exactly what happened in BC’s latest ad blunder.

We’ll be surprised if we ever hear from Betty Crocker, seeing how they’re operated by General Mills, makers of two of the most dad unfriendly brands around: Cheerios and Kix. We’ve tweeted them before, and they’ve ignored us like a stale cookie crumb.

Still, we’ll keep trying, because a small change in marketing approach would require “no superpowers needed,” and then we can all celebrate together with a Betty Crocker dessert.

Until then, we’ll just keep using another brand actually created by a man who knew a thing or two about cakes.

I don’t cheer for Cheerios

The phrase “to those whom much has been given, more is required,” is best known for its origin in the Bible.

I think it applies to cereal, too — specifically, Cheerios — and we’ll get to that connection in a minute.cheeriosfrown

But let’s think about Cheerios first.  It’s one of the strongest brands around.  Its no-nonsense black serif font on the plain yellow box is iconic.  The circular shape is basic, pure and often imitated.  Its ingredients include whole grain oats and just one gram of sugar.  Nearly every off- and store-brand has made a knock-off version and given it a similar name.  The taste is simple and unchanged virtually since the beginning, unless you count the explosion of its flavored offspring, such as Reduced-Fat-Yogurt-Berry-Blast-Cinnamon-Coated-Sprinkle Cheerios (seriously, do we need this much variety?).

I would argue that Cheerios has been in every American home at least one point in time since its inception, and I doubt many brand names can proclaim that.  We eat it.  We make snack mixes with it.  We feed it to babies.  We feed it to birds.  We make crafts with it.  We give it to kids in church to keep them quiet.  We string it on Christmas trees.  We love it.  We trust it.  Its wholesome.  It sticks on noses (try doing that with Kix).  It’s certified by the American Heart Association!  It’s genius!Image

It’s just plain…perfect!

Or is it?

Their marketing folks nearly had me at hello, but as I went further into their website, discovered that it’s Mom’s Choice.  And that’s when I started thinking about the phrase, “to those whom much has been given, more is required.”

You see, we’ve made Cheerios a part of our lives and trusted it for years, and I always thought it was a decently mutual relationship:  General Mills kept making it, we kept eating it and everyone was happy.  But then they started saying that it’s the cereal which mom’s choose, and dads instantly became alienated and left out.  More should be required of one of the top cereals around.  They’re supposed to be an example for everyone else.  Do you ever see the NFL say, “It’s the sports league more dads watch with their boys than any other”?

Cheerios, I thought you were better than this.  We’ve all given you so much, and more should be required.

I have the last box I’ll ever buy in my cupboard, and I’m not even going to eat it.

But the birds will.

 

Kix it to the curb

kix2We’ve all heard of stories how the mom used to drag the entire family to church, right? There must be some heavenly market research somewhere backing up this stereotype. So why don’t most churches appeal to the moms?

I can see the ads now: “Moms, you can trust in your kids’ salvation at our church, because we know dads don’t have a history of doing it.”

Let us bow our heads and thank heaven above it’s a good thing churches don’t behave like the makers of Kix cereal.

On the front of their famous yellow-orange box you can’t even find the word “cereal” emblazoned, but you certainly can find a rectangle larger than the General Mills logo itself proclaiming their longtime slogan, “Kid-Tested, Mother-Approved.” And they even have this saying copyrighted!

If it wasn’t clear yet as to exactly who they want to pick up and buy their cereal, simply turn the box slightly.

They used the side panel to include a “Message to Moms…” where they promise mothers that they’ll give kids the best of both worlds, nutrition and great taste. Below this is a “Kix Assurance,” proclaiming that “for over 70 years, moms have trusted our commitment to good nutrition.”

The 800 number comment line is listed under all of this, and it makes me wonder if a dad would even dare call it after their promises and claims to moms all over. Dads might need to make a deal with the devil to ever get this cereal to change.

Kix, you’re in my prayers. Amen.