Kellogg Co.'s Special K cereal touts one of the most remarkable turnarounds of a mature brand in recent history.
The cereal was going stale in the U.S. in 2001. Sales of the brand introduced in 1955 were slumping, and its Special K Plus line extension had just bombed.
It took freeze-dried strawberries to heat things up. Added to the cereal to create Special K Red Berries, Kellogg experienced its most successful new-product launch in more than a decade. The new cereal in the pink box was such a hit that Kellogg had to suspend advertising at one point to catch up with demand. Some of the initial advertising was created by WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, before Kellogg consolidated all its advertising at Chicago-based Leo Burnett USA, now part of Publicis Groupe.
"We knew there was a lot of interest in Special K by people who wanted a different taste. We unlocked that demand by adding berries, and expanded our audience to include more men and younger people," says Mark Baynes, VP-marketing, morning cereal group, at Kellogg USA. Over the last 12 years, Mr. Baynes has held a variety of marketing positions with Kellogg in the U.S. and U.K.
The technology to add freeze-dried fruit to flaked cereal was developed by Kellogg in France. Special K Red Berries was introduced there and in the U.K. in 1999, and sales immediately soared.
But when it arrived in the U.S. two years later, incremental sales gains were even bigger-as much as 95%-says Mr. Baynes, 42. Special K Red Berries increased U.K. sales of the Special K brand by 50%, and in the U.S. the overall market share has increased from 1.8% in 2000 to 3.3% currently.
Another line extension, Special K Vanilla Almond, was introduced this year. Kellogg continues to target women with its "Kick-Start Diet" featuring the Special K cereal line, and the overall brand's sales continue to grow.