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: http://blog.generalmills.com/2014/01/cheerios-brings-back-a-familiar-family/ – 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: http://blog.generalmills.com/2014/09/have-you-experienced-the-cheerios-effect/#sthash.H5VttMi9.dpuf
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 http://blog.generalmills.com/2014/09/have-you-experienced-the-cheerios-effect/
Duhigg, C. (2012) How companies learn your secrets. New York Times. (Feb 19.) Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/magazine/shopping-habits.html
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.