General Mills reboots ’80s cereal flavors with livestreamed event

Linda J. Dodson

Dive Brief:

  • General Mills is promoting the return of former recipes for popular cereals with a live event targeting people who feel nostalgic for the Saturday morning cartoons they enjoyed in childhood. The packaged foods company restored honey to its Golden Grahams recipe, more flavoring to Cocoa Puffs and Cookie Crisps and six classic fruity shapes to Trix, according to a company announcement.
  • To promote the permanent return of “taste and shapes that ruled your Saturday mornings in the ’80s,” the company enlisted TV host Mario Lopez to host an event featuring classic cartoons, titled “General Mills Presents: The Ultimate Saturday Morning Drive-In.” People can livestream the showing from the Tribeca Film Festival website or buy tickets to see it person at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, California, on Oct. 3.
  • The first 100 people who sign up for the livestream will receive free samples of the nostalgic cereal formulas. General Mills is urging people to follow its @GeneralMillsCereal account on Facebook and Instagram, and share photos with the #ultimatesaturdaymorning hashtag to show how they’re preparing to tune in.

Dive Insight:

As people seek the comforts of childhood amid a stressful 2020, General Mills is reviving its former cereal formulas and hosting a presentation of the Saturday morning cartoons of yesteryear. Gen Xers and millennials that have now reached middle age are most likely to remember Saturday mornings when programming blocks on the major broadcast networks were dedicated to kids, featuring cartoons and advertisements for cereals, toys, movies and other children’s brands. That changed in the 1990s amid regulatory restrictions and competition from cable networks like the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network.

Nostalgia has become a popular theme in recent campaigns by big brands that want to remind consumers how they can depend on their favorite products during an unsettled period. Among the more recent examples, beer brand Miller Lite this month collaborated with booking site to rent out a 1975-themed Miller Timeshare. Before that, Chex Mix revived its “Chex Quest” video game from the 1990s for online gaming platform Steam to connect with a new generation of snackers. It’s likely that more brands will revisit campaigns from the past, especially as the pandemic interferes with their ability to schedule in-person productions and produce fresh creative.

By hosting a drive-in showing of cartoons and livestreaming the event, General Mills can reach a broad audience of consumers who are spending more time at home and preparing their own meals instead of dining out. Livestreams have become more popular as brands aim to reach consumers who have increased their usage of social media to stay connected with others and who have boosted the time they spend watching online video. Brands as varied as Chipotle Mexican Grill, Cholula, Ikea, McCormick, Pepsi, Rubbermaid and Tostitos have sponsored livestreams in the past few months to reach those viewers directly with brand-safe programming.

General Mills tomorrow will release its latest earnings report, providing more insight into sales trends through the end of last month. The company previously reported a 16% jump in comparable sales in its last completed quarter amid strong demand for pantry staples like soups and cereals during the pandemic, per its earnings report. Its U.S. cereal sales jumped 26% in the quarter ended May 31, and the company likely seeks to maintain that momentum with the reintroduction of its former flavors.

General Mills has changed its cereal formulas over the years in an effort to appeal to health-conscious consumers. The company in 2015 removed artificial flavors and colors from Trix and Reese’s Puffs and said 90% of its cereals would be free of artificial ingredients by the end of the following year, the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal reported. The company in 2017 brought back artificially colored Trix after difficulties in matching its formerly bright colors, according to the newspaper. As consumers seek brands they remember from when they were young, restoring former recipes is General Mills’ latest strategy to boost sales.

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