General Mills, Target Play on Consumers' Nostalgia

Retro Designs of Their Youth Appeal to Stressed Shoppers' Desire for Comfort

By Published on .

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- If food can be comforting, how about packaging? With consumers embracing old-world classics such as casserole, some marketers are trying to get on the bandwagon by trotting out some old-school style.

Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs: General Mills has given Target a month-long exclusive on retro box designs for some of its best-selling cereals.
Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs: General Mills has given Target a month-long exclusive on retro box designs for some of its best-selling cereals.
General Mills has given Target a month-long exclusive on retro box designs for some of its best-selling cereals, Cheerios, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs and Trix. The package-food company is giving away T-shirts with the old designs as part of the deal. Consumers with five proof-of-purchase labels will be entitled to a free shirt at cerealwear.com. Consumers who would rather just buy one can go to the site and spend $5 to don a defunct Mills design.

Taken from the archives
The promotion, which began in stores Feb. 15, runs through March 21. The box designs were taken from General Mills archives and given minor tweaks, such as updated product shots. But for the most part, the designs are the same, with original games and activities.

Target did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

"Our brands have a history that spans many young adults' childhoods," Kerry DeLaney, associate marketing manager-Big G Cereals, said in a statement. "The retro-box concept is a fun and unique way to create a package design that appeals to Target's guests."

Although the promotion is still running, General Mills spokeswoman Shelly Dvorak said the company is very pleased with initial results. "We have even seen blog posts by consumers talking about the retro boxes," she added.

General Mills has avoided direct marketing, leaving promotion to bloggers. Andrew Gibbs at TheDieLine wrote, "My initial reaction was one of refreshing surprise -- what a pleasant treat for someone like me, who appreciates the aesthetics of yesteryear." He added, however, that such designs may have limited appeal to children, the products' ostensible consumers. "Perhaps the obvious conclusion is that these retro designs are aimed at adults who would otherwise not buy anything promoted by a cartoon rabbit," he said.

Deals have cachet
Dan Ochwat, editor of Shopper Marketing Magazine, said General Mills and Target are likely looking for a short spike in business, because the promotional window is so small. But exclusive deals certainly have cachet.

"Exclusivity is what they're all looking for now," he said. "That in these times is how you strike gold." One potential problem, he said is that many private-label packages have a retro look, and marketers may risk looking more like one of their lower-priced imitators.

Virginia Valkenburgh, senior VP of Cannondale Associates, a Wilton, Conn.-based marketing consultancy, noted that Target is known for seeking out exclusive deals. She described the retro promotion as particularly current. Consumers want to be comforted, and they are cooking and eating more at home, she said.

"It's going to make the moms and the kids feel good," she said.

In this article:
Most Popular