Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Breakfast of the Mediocre

What's with Wheaties?

For many years no other cereal has been as closely linked to sports as the orange-boxed Wheaties. "The Breakfast of Champions" was marketed primarily through its close association with well-known athletes, including those from baseball, football, basketball, the Olympics, and golf. The boxes themselves have been a popular collectors' item by both sports and cereal enthusiasts.

But, Wheaties appears to be taking a new direction. No longer can you find your sports heroes facing you at the breakfast table each morning. Instead you are given a drab message indicating that you can "Jumpstart Your Metabolism". The emphasis is on "Everyday Champions", you and me benefiting from the whole wheat cereal. The active lifestyle emphasis is still there, but gone are the excitement and endorsements. With this type of mediocrity Wheaties will probably find itself lost on a very competitive grocer's shelf.

Certainly the costs associated with licensing sports stars, teams and leagues is a real consideration for General Mills. But, I wonder if they're doing enough to give Wheaties a new, and stronger, identity.

Overall, I think they are on the right track: Position Wheaties as the athlete's cereal. You can see this already happening with their "Everyday Champions" emphasis. And, on their website they have research that reveals Wheaties fuels muscle recovery following exercise.

But, General Mills needs to do more to drive this message home. Perhaps a good strategy would be to market Wheaties specifically to men and their desire for athletic performance. There are already fitness cereals for women (Kellogg's Special K and General Mills' own Curves). Why not a testosterone-fueled marketing campaign that is geared at males and their fierce competitve nature?

It would be sad to see a strong brand like Wheaties weaken, and out of the cereal playoffs!

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