Frosted Mini-Wheat’s Engaging Cereal Box!

When I was a kid, over breakfast, I found great joy in cereal boxes.   They came loaded with a toy and provided excellent reading material. It was all the entertainment I needed over the 15 minutes it took me to eat my cereal.  Fast forward to now, my habits have changed – tend to eat cereal at night, not in the morning, I don’t buy cereal solely for the toy, and I usually don’t read/study the cereal box anymore.   But I do I watch my daughter in the mornings finding the same joy in cereal boxes.   Right now, it’s less about the toy and more about the reading, but it will change soon enough.   This past week, I saw an example of what we might be in for and it was exhilarating!  What I saw was an 11th screen cereal box! A cereal box (offline) that drives a deeper brand experience through online channels!  No real-world, immediate gratification toy here.   It’s all about virtual widgets and collecting virtual coupons for special real-world items.

This is not new.  Even though I haven’t really paid attention to cereal boxes in the last umpteen years, I know that brands utilize these opportunities to drive consumers online.  But as you can see in this example, I think they’ve gotten really good at it.  I created a scorecard-type guide for experiences like this, so I’ll put my box of Mini-Wheats to the test.

Experience – What’s the brand experience?  Is it offline to online or vice versa?  Here, the experience begins offline, on the cereal box, and drives consumers online, to the “prize & account” hub where the user’s points/codes are collected and can be redeemed for various prizes.  The site is simple.  It’s there strictly for the purpose of utility – keep track of consumer’s points and allow them to redeem the points for a limited number of virtual & real-world items.

Purpose – What’s the purpose of this experience?  The purpose I see here, really, is to provide more value in the merchandising/promotional items, which in turn, results in repeated purchase of Kellogg’s cereal.  They do provide rewards for low-level engagement, but the real rewards come with multiple points, which means buying more cereal.  Now, some of these things (bank account, desk light) are questionable in their worth/usefulness, but some are good, age-appropriate items (concession cash, movie pass).

Visibility – Similar to “Drama”, here it’s important to understand how visible the call-to-action is that drives people from one channel to the other.  In this case, the call-to-action is to get “free stuff”, which is found on the box.

Cereal boxes and makers have already set the expectation that there is something “special inside,” so I think they can get away with a little bit more in terms of CTA prominence than others.  While the CTA on the front is small, it’s visible, separated enough in design from the rest of the packaging and appears in multiple places.  Then, on the back of the box, the CTA and instructions take the entire real-estate and provide simple steps to get started.

Entry Points – How many “offline” entry points does the consumer have?  And how many “online” entry points does the consumer have?  How consistent with each other are they?  Do they all drive to the same destination?  The only way that I can find to get into this site is the direct URL from the cereal box(es).  Neither the Kellogg’s site, nor the Mini-Wheats site makes mention of this promotion, which I assume is pretty standard with limited-time offers like this.  I think they could get more coverage by including it on the Mini-Wheats site, at the very least, but you have to ask yourself a question – how many people buy a box of cereal vs. go to the cereal’s website.  I daresay many more people buy these boxes than visit the site.

Content – I think there are two parts to this: 1) What type of content sets up the engagement? and 2) What type of content, if any, is generated by the consumers?  As mentioned above, the site is pure utility, which is good for this audience.  Before diving into the content of the site, consumer’s must register, which is a necessary evil.

I feel like they could offer a bit more exclusive content once logged-in.  The only “free” content is a “funny real” from TS3.  Aside from that, there’s nothing that keeps consumers here for an extended period of time.  Since this is geared towards children, Disney/Pixar have an abundance of content that could engage them for hours on end, literally.  I question, then, if all of these real-world items are really needed?  There is something to be said about tangible items, but we live in such a digital world as it is, Disney/Pixar could just get away with serving up exclusive content.  No content generated by consumers here, which considering the audience, seems appropriate.

Extensions – How deep does this experience go?  It’s bringing people from the offline world into the online world, now where all can they go?  The best piece of this experience, in my mind, is an extension on the site.

In my house, technology, while I think it’s great to expose our kids to, it is a major annoyance to my wife.  The computer is just an extension of the TV and she is of the mindset that the kids need to be doing something other than sitting, watching TV or messing around on the computer.  So, when this screen automatically appeared after I’d been on the site for 5+ minutes (I don’t know the exact timing), I appreciated the message.  On top of that, Kellogg’s has created a site that actually gives kids activities to complete, all in “challenge” format.

Recently, I’ve been involved in a few debates over marketing to children and here’s an example of a company who is making an effort to put the right, responsible checks in place. There’s no assurance that this will strike a chord with kids out there (and even their parents), but it’s so much better than nothing.

All in all, I found this experience solid.  While it excited me much more than my daughter, I think it’s a good idea for brands to be driving this type of engagement for younger audiences.  We are living in a technical world where kids appreciate mobile applications much more than physical piggy banks.  (Not so in my house quite yet, though!)

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