Finally You Put My LOVE on Top!

Emotional branding has been a cornerstone of strategic marketing for over a century. Principal brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonalds and Disney have cornered the market for years with heartfelt campaigns designed to warm your heart and open your wallet, and with good reason. Analysts have found brands that effectively target consumer emotions are generally better able to tap into the habit loops – cue, routine, reward – which influence key decision making emotions such as pleasure, love and happiness (Duhigg, 2012).

As proponents of Recency Theory have noted, the “goal of advertising for established brands has shifted from awareness to reminder-based tactics designed to engage the consumer at the nearest point of purchase” (Young, 2010). Enter General Mills top performing cereal brand, Cheerios. An American staple since 1945, Cheerios is a prime example of a well-known brand that has taken full advantage of the ability that emotional branding has to “reinforce the brand proposition and convert that awareness to purchase” (Young, 2010). In 2013, the company introduced a campaign focused on the ultimate benefit, LOVE.

“Cheerios is about families and love and connections — and breakfast,” says Camille Gibson, vice president of marketing for Big G cereals. “Our new Cheerios ad celebrates one of those special moments with a family that America fell in love with. The brand is at its best when it reveals moving insights about what connects us to each other, especially as families, and often through the lens of a child.  The ad quietly celebrates the emotional sharing and simple joys we find when spending just a few simple moments together every day.” – See more at: – sthash.fDILEXj4.dpuf

In 2014, they took the message further with the introduction of the Cheerio Effect. Leveraging the scientific phenomenon that naturally occurs when floating objects come together, they tapped even further into the human psyche, creating campaigns that focused on the most basic of human needs, connection.

“We saw the Cheerios Effect as a perfect metaphor for human connections,” says Amanda Hsueh, marketing manager in the cereals division. “Just as the Cheerios are naturally drawn together in the bowl, we believe that the need to connect is one of the most natural parts of the human condition.” – See more at:

Thus, the creation of the  General Mills Canada, André, Jonathan & Raphaëlle  installment. This commercial, which tells the heartwarming story of a childless couple, finding one another and then adopting a child, tugs at the very heart of the human desire for connection. The fact that the couple consists of a same-sex, male, Caucasian couple, adopting an African female, takes the campaign to a new level and positions Cheerios as a cereal for everyone and a brand without borders. As Young (2012) noted, “the most effective way to start a conversation is to listen” (p. 96). With the marriage equality act at the forefront of political and social commentary, Cheerios ability to enter the conversation in a strategic yet authentic manner demonstrates their ability to not only listen but more importantly…join in. The Effect campaign provides a key example of the SUCCESs principle at work by highlighting the Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story (Heath & Heath, 2012) of real people not actors. (Grayson, 2014).

The entire campaign excels in consistency and connection among media and execution with ambient, digital, print and broadcast campaigns all featuring the signature “o’s” connecting in a bowl at some point in the message. It also blends across all formats with digital, broadcast and print ads each providing a link to the former. While many “big brands” continue to play it safe, Cheerios has proven that an investment in emotional branding is absolutely worth the connection.


A Grayson. (2014, September 30). Have you experienced the cheerios effect? Retrieved from

Duhigg, C. (2012) How companies learn your secrets. New York Times. (Feb 19.) Retrieved from

Heath, C & Heath, D. (2007). Made to stick: Why some ideas die and others survive. Random House.

Young, A. (2010). Brand media strategy: Integrated communications planning in the digital era. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

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5 Responses to Finally You Put My LOVE on Top!

  1. Nazly says:

    Hi Kristal,

    Nice post! I just watched this Cheerios commercial a few days ago. I’m glad Cheerios is showing same-sex couples giving love and care to an adopted child. Whoever directed this commercial allowed the couple to share their story and had them talk about their love story and the struggle of the adoption process. Both parents showed emotion and one can see that there is love within this family. All of these elements fit in Cheerios campaign that you briefly discussed. As a viewer, this commercial definitely gave a tear or two and it made feel good that there are couples out there who want to love.

  2. Gail says:

    Kristal ~

    Your informative post on Cheerios’ emotional television commercial with the same-sex couple who adopted a little girl, reflects how commercials may mirror the social justice issues of our times. Millions of people watch TV, but millions may not be comfortable talking about social issues, and/or issues of social justice. However, TV can easily and powerfully fill that gap, as we see in this General Mills Canada commercial.

    The audience for the television commercial also becomes a passive participant in the conversation about marriage-quality, same-sex adoption, and cross-racial adoption. These are themes that are touched upon in this commercial. There is a pleasant, intimate quality to this commercial.

    Commercial advertising can do so much to invite the public into a conversation about what it means to be a family, as we see in this commerical. I enjoyed the documentary-style of the commercial: the two dads sharing their story about their desire to have a family, and the appearance of the cute kid, dressed in pink, with the box of Cheerios on the table.

    As a cultural studies theorist and practitioner, I want to continue thinking about the societal context for the television commercial, and the metta-linguistic cues that are presented about role-dominance, and the echo of the colonialist project. However, when it comes to the practice of integrated marketing, the topic of our class, this entire Cheerios campaign is a template for how a trusted brand can influence public opinion.

    Thank you for this post!

  3. chiachiy says:


    Thanks for the lovely post. I do agree with the fact that how great emotional branding affect people to purchase. Some universal affection such as love and hope can always especially make a strong connection with people. I also think the advertising of Cheerios captures the spirit successfully. The advertising also reminds me of a TV commercial of a wedding pastry shop from my country, which also used the similar tactic of representing a same-sex couple’s story. This commercial made a big success that people kept sharing it by social media after it came out. I think both of them touched upon the hot-button social issue nowadays and successfully struck the emotion of viewers by telling lovely stories.

  4. Graham says:

    Very well crafted post! The cheerios effect is fascinating too. I have to salute General Mills for being willing to take on a concept as broad as the everyday connection that we form with others. It was particularly effective the way they weaved adoption, race and gay rights issues into a short story. In our culture, it’s a genuine sadness that breakfast is being skipped so carelessly by many. Much less are those families enjoying an early meal together. The cheerios effect and great narratives, like the one in your example ad, are terrific ways to build a brand community. What Cheerios did beautifully here was align their priorities with that of its consumers, rather than ask the consumer to align with the brand.

  5. pchoksi says:

    Very informative and well written post. The Cheerios effect, to read about, is interesting. The corporation held on to its ideologies and not sway away with the market trends.