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General Mills Breakfast Campaign A PR Blunder

Posted by: David Kiley on June 22, 2005

I’m sure when General Mills began talking about promoting breakfast as a health benefit for kids, it seemed like a great idea. The company has all the data to back it up about how too many kids skip breakfast and those who do tend to be more obese and achieve lower grades.

But the idea that General Mills will use the commercial character icons for Lucky Charms, Trix and Cocoa Puffs on packaging as part of a “fitness squad” to promote the idea to kids that breakfast can help concentrate in class and build muscles seems like a huge stretch.

This strategy is very much akin to Kraft’s idea of using SpongeBob and Dora The Explorer, Nickelodeon characters they license on fatty and sugary foods, to pitch messages of fitness and staying active on Kraft packages.

Let’s cut to the chase. This is all about creating cover in the debate over childhood obesity and whether or not sugary, fatty and otherwise heavily processed foods should be freely advertised directly to kids under 12. It’s also about trying to make Moms, the gatekeepers of most of what kids under 12 eat, feel better toward brands like Lucky Charms and Trix.

Selling Lucky Charms, Trix, Cocoa Puffs and the like is big business. And there is no reason why General Mills shouldn’t stay in that business. But dressing up sugary cereal, even if it’s fortified with vitamins, as good for you, or better for you than other, less sugar-laden empty-calorie choices, just isn’t credible. My Mother was too smart to fall for that, and she taught her son well.

To me, brand management should have credibility management at its center. That’s where marketing, smart public relations and reputation management converge when companies do it right.

Reader Comments


July 18, 2005 4:37 PM

Don't ingnore the contention that breakfast cereals have decreased in popularity as the price has risen.

Could this be a last ditch effort before price reductions are used to drive product?

I know that I have moved from General Mills' Cheerios to generic "Toasteeos". Same taste and quality, and 1/2 to 1/3 of the price.


October 10, 2005 12:35 AM

The new Cheerios commercial featuring a spanish speaking family at the breakfast table is not much better. When will advertisers begin to understand that the American public does not want to see people speaking in Spanish??!! Does company X advertise in Russian in Japan? I think not!


November 16, 2005 11:50 PM

Are you that ethnocentric that you can't handle ONE out of the hundreds of commercials broadcasted daily on English tv channels bothers you? Approx. 30 million people! speak spanish in the U.S., and not only immigrants or those with Hispanic heritage. Be careful with how you go about complaining, your bound to offend someone.


April 10, 2007 8:25 AM

We have had the Three Muskateers, The Three Tenors, The Three Amigos, The Three Stooges, and now we have, Limbaugh, Imus and Bush,

The Three ***holes

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News, opinions, inflammatory meanderings and occasional ravings about the world of advertising, marketing and media. By marketing editor Burt Helm, Innovation Editor Helen Walters, and senior correspondent Michael Arndt.

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