78 years of selling a progressive message, and also cereal.
In 1941, General Mills invented Cheerios as an alternative to oatmeal. They were called Cheeri Oats and were novel as the first oats that did not need to be cooked. Today, Cheerios is a recognized household name boasting at least ten flavors. (Bhasin, Marketing Mix of Cheerios.)
Cheerios’ success comes partly from their quality product, with 12 vitamins and minerals inside (Bhasin), but also from innovative advertising that has remained consistent despite more recent controversies.
78 years is a lot to look at, considering Cheerios has created 112 television commercials. You can watch many of the modern commercials at this website: https://www.ispot.tv/brands/dzr/cheerios.
Let’s break down the highlights from the past six years, instead.
In 2013, Cheerios, along with Saatchi & Saatchi, a partnering advertising company, created two commercials with an interracial couple and their mixed daughter. The commercials sought to normalize integration, promote tolerance of all types of families, and also sell more Cheerios.
Watch the second commercial and read about both, here: https://www.aaaa.org/timeline-event/good-heart-saatchi-saatchi-cheerios-evolving-american-family/
The interracial family commercials caused a controversy, but ultimately increased Cheerios’ “online branding by 77%” (Heine).
These ads created such an impact in the media world, that an MSNBC social media representative lost her job for discussing the divisive partisan nature of the ads, saying “‘the Rightwing’ will hate” them (Thielman).
The next year, Cheerios released several ads about parenting and also showed support for the LGBT community.
The first commercial, “3rd Shift” was a short spot about a little boy waking up in the middle of the night to eat breakfast with his father who works nights, showing support for blue collar workers.
The second was a Canadian ad about Andre and Jonathan, two dads who adopted a little girl. They talk about how they met and what it means to them to be a parent, while their daughter eats Cheerios patiently.
The third, “How to Dad” is a longer commercial in which a father shows, and tells, his take on fatherhood of three children, with his wife. He says being a father is awesome, just like Cheerios.
Later, Cheerios, with the creative help of Matt Smukler, released a spot about a grandfather who is moving in with his children. He is visibly apprehensive about the situation, but when he arrives at his daughter’s house, his granddaughter has arranged a display of every flavor of Cheerios for him. She says her mom told her that he liked Cheerios, but not which kind.
In 2017, Cheerios shifted from messages about families, to saving the declining bee population. They shipped a free packet of seeds to everyone who asked for one. They also used the hashtag #BringBackTheBees in order to raise awareness for the cause and inspire action. (Jones-Mitchell, WordPress).
In order to get more people to notice, Cheerios took “Buzz,” the mascot on the box, and “removed” him by making his picture all white instead of a picture of the bee. This helped show the world that there may be no more bees unless we collectively take action to aid in conservation, and that no bees means no Honey Nut Cheerios. (Johnson, Associations Now)
This year, Cheerios has released a series of animated shorts discussing families, bullying, individuality, and inclusion. If you haven’t clicked on any of the links in this blog yet, please choose to click on this one: https://www.adweek.com/creativity/like-a-next-gen-schoolhouse-rock-cheerios-launches-4-catchy-animated-shorts/. Cheerios’ newest campaign is the most relevant to our society right now, in early March of 2019.
If the past six years of Cheerios marketing isn’t enough to convince you that Cheerios is a brand willing to stand up for inclusion and tolerance, maybe their 2002 “Spoonfuls of Stories” campaign in which they gave books to children, will. Or, maybe their 2009 endorsement by gymnast Shawn Johnson will. Maybe you’re more health conscious and would like to know that Cheerios stopped using Genetically Modified ingredients in 2015. (Bhasin, Marketing Mix of Cheerios).
Whatever your cause, whatever your motivation to improve humanity, Cheerios has an ad campaign for you.