Kellogg Co. was established in 1906 by William Keith Kellogg, younger brother of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the Battle Creek Sanitorium in Battle Creek, Mich. Dr. Kellogg had created wheat flakes in 1894 as a nutritious food for his health spa clients. The company was incorporated in 1925.
Kellogg spent $90,000 on advertising in 1906, including $4,000 for a page ad in the July issue of the Ladies' Home Journal, pioneering the use of color in advertising. The ad included a coupon for customers to take to their grocers to sign and return requesting Corn Flakes. Consumers who successfully enlisted new stores received "a season's worth" of Corn Flakes for free.
Sales in 1906 soared from 33 to 2,900 cases a day. In the first six months of 1907, Kellogg's advertising budget reached $300,000. After the stock market crash of 1929, when many other advertisers were cutting back, Kellogg doubled its ad budget.
By 1940, Kellogg's total advertising expenditures had passed $2.3 million, with approximately $1.5 million in print and $860,000 in network radio, including children's shows such as "Don Winslow of the Navy," "Buck Rogers" and "Superman."
Mr. Kellogg was an innovator in packaging and consumer and trade promotion as well. He introduced the first wax-paper liner to preserve product freshness and the first in-pack premium in 1910, a "flip book" titled "The Jungleland Funny Moving Pictures Book." Among his many trade promotions, he provided grocers with free samples of Corn Flakes to give away to customers who winked at them.
The success of Kellogg's Corn Flakes spawned scores of imitators. Some 108 different brands of corn flakes were being produced by 40 different companies in Battle Creek by 1911. To differentiate Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Mr. Kellogg put his name on every box, supported by an advertising campaign that said, "None genuine without this signature?W.K. Kellogg." That signature remained the company logo into the next century.
Additional products followed: Kellogg's Shredded Wheat and Krumbles cereal in 1912, All-Bran in 1919, Rice Krispies in 1928, Corn Pops in 1950, Frosted Flakes in 1952, Honey Smacks in 1953 and Product 19 and Pop-Tarts in 1963.
Kellogg appointed its first advertising agencies, N.W. Ayer & Son and Kenyon & Eckhardt, in the 1930s, adding J. Walter Thompson Co. to the roster in 1938 and Leo Burnett Co. in 1949. K&E lost the Corn Flakes business to Burnett in 1951 and the rest of the account?Bran Flakes, Pep, Raisin Bran and Rice Krispies?in July 1952. Burnett won the account by redesigning Kellogg packaging.
Kellogg's best-known contributions to advertising in the cereal category were memorable slogans, jingles and characters from Burnett to support its family of brands. Perhaps the most memorable was the jingle:
Good morning, good morning,
The best to you each morning.
K-E-double L-O-double good,
Kellogg's best to you.
Kellogg used scores of other slogans for its flagship brand over the years. Among the more notable were: "What breakfast was meant to be," "Wins its favor through its flavor," "The original and best," "The best way to start the day," "The nation's breakfast" and "It's gonna be a great day."
Mr. Kellogg commissioned the first advertising "character" for Corn Flakes in 1907: a woman holding a shock of corn dubbed "The Sweetheart of the Corn." The use of cartoon characters became a hallmark of Kellogg's advertising. Snap, Crackle and Pop, introduced in 1941 for Rice Krispies, were the first and continue to be the longest-lasting cartoon spokescharacters in Kellogg ad history. In Sweden, they are known as Piff, Paff and Puff; Germans know them as Knisper, Knasper and Knusper; and Mexicans call them Pim, Pam and Pum.
Most of Kellogg's characters were created by Chicago-based Burnett, including Tony the Tiger for Frosted Flakes (1952), Sugar Pops Pete (1958), Milton the Toaster for Pop Tarts (1971), Toucan Sam for Froot Loops (1963), Dig'Em the Frog for Sugar Smacks (1972) and Cornelius the Rooster for Corn Flakes (1957).
Kellogg has also been a major broadcast advertiser, using spot and network TV since the early 1950s, sponsoring Jimmy Durante's "All Star Review" and "Howdy Doody," its first national buy. In the late 1950s, Kellogg bought, financed and produced one of the earliest syndicated TV programs, "Wild Bill Hickock." Other sponsorships during TV's golden age included "Superman," "Dennis the Menace," "Captain Kangaroo" and "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Kellogg was the early and undisputed leader in ready-to-eat cereal in both U.S. and global markets. But the 1990s saw new challenges to its leadership. Kellogg's share of domestic cereal sales fell from 41% in 1988 to 32% in 1998. Along the way, the company sold subsidiaries Mrs. Smith's Pies, to J.M. Smucker Co. in 1994, and Lender's Bagel Bakery, to Aurora Foods in 1999.
As consumers' tastes for a traditional breakfast waned, Kellogg moved into other areas. In 1999, it launched a new line of cholesterol-lowering foods under the Ensemble brand, with 21 products ranging from cereal to bread to frozen lasagna. That initiative, handled by Y&R Advertising with the tagline, "Life your way," was unsuccessful.
The Martin Agency began its first work for Kellogg on a line of seven "nutraceuticals," fortified cereals advertised as "K-sentials." But by the end of November 1999, as reported by Advertising Age, the company decided that K-sentials multibrand advertising was no longer essential and stopped it in favor of more brand-specific advertising. In 2000, the company made plans to spend its ad budget on its largest brands, including Froot Loops and Corn Pops. This came as rival General Mills for the first time passed Kellogg in sales.
Advertising strategy at the start of the 21st century positioned Kellogg brands as adjuncts to a healthy lifestyle, a return to the company's wellness origins of a century earlier. An umbrella campaign was launched in 1999 with the tagline: "With Kellogg's, a healthier life is within your reach. So tomorrow morning, help yourself." Meanwhile, the company in 2000 expanded into cookies and snacks with the purchase of Keebler Foods for $3.6 billion.
In 2002, Kellogg regained its leadership status in the cereal category as the company worked hard to reposition many of its cereal brands with more relevant advertising. Special K, for example, in 2001 launched a two-week weight loss challenge where consumers were instructed to replace two meals a day with Special K for two weeks to lose six pounds.
In 2001, Kellogg, the U.S.' No. 73 advertiser, had U.S. sales of $6.1 billion, up 50.7% from 2000, and spent $421.5 million on advertising. Worldwide earnings were $474 million, down 19.4%.