Love in a cereal bowl

How exploiting Cheerios' fundamental truth helps push those yellow boxes of toasted oats

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The New York Times Magazine - Talk about brand loyalty: People love Cheerios. There's just something about the product that resonates with consumers, and has for more than 60 years. So what's that something?

David Altschul, president of Portland, Ore.-based firm Character, which does "story frameworks" for brands, recently led for Cheerios' marketers and ad-agency people a three-day exercise called Character Camp to answer the question, "What does this brand want?" As Mr. Altschul explains, it's a way to get away from consumer data and view a brand as a "character." And that's important, he says, because 'character and story are at the heart of every brand that has an audience.'

"What do Cheerios want? Analyzing reels of old ads for the cereal led to discussions about how the brand was depicted in relationship to family members, particularly moms-who were curiously underrepresented, almost as if, like Clark Kent and Superman, they could never be seen together. Cheerios, it seemed, wanted to be Mom. 'I think the brand actually wants to enable family connection,' Mr. Altschul says. 'Every brand that we've looked at that has any emotional traction is based on some fundamental human truth,' he adds, and in the case of Cheerios this truth is: 'Families are built on small, intimate moments of love connection.'

"Becky O'Grady, the General Mills vice president who oversees the Cheerios brand, says this 'process evolved our thinking.' The Character Camp vision of a heroic, beloved Cheerios, Ms. O'Grady says, 'gave us courage to go to the next level.'"

The end result? "More recent advertising has dropped the cholesterol arrow in favor of more blatantly emotional vignettes connections."

-"The Story of O's," New York Times Magazine, Feb. 19, 2006

Life Imitates Web

Harvard Business Review - Web shopping is so easy now that people expect the same ease when shopping in a physical store. So why not design stores that mirror Web sites' layouts and flow?

"Customers would get out quickly with exactly what they need, never forced to double back for forgotten items," author David Weinberger, marketing consultant and coauthor of "Cluetrain Manifesto," writes. "The result would be increased loyalty and lifetime expenditures.

"Creating a real-world version of an online organization means treating retail space as though it were information space. The first principle of Web design is that signage be clear, visible and well thought-out, with logical and consistent naming and arrangement of product categories. ... Second, the Web makes it easy for shoppers to get as much product information as they want. ... Third, e-commerce sites serve both their own interests and their customers' by suggesting appropriate add-ons. ... Finally, Web sites draw on customers' past purchasing behavior to present clusters of products they buy frequently....

"Some of these practices are being tested at the Staples Prototype Lab, located down the street from the company's headquarters in Framingham, Massachusetts. Every day, vice president of visual merchandising Bob Madill and his staff work to overcome the limitations of atoms and space so customers can navigate a Staples store as if it were pure information." Low shelves don't detract from signs luring shoppers to categories and subcategories. "'By having a store that's mostly low, it's easily scannable' by human eyes," Mr. Madill says. "Higher shelves would accommodate more items, but customers wouldn't be able to see the signs."

-"Unstick Your Customers" from "Breakthrough Ideas for 2006," Harvard Business Review, February 2006
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