15.Oct.2009 at 15 | Demian
I have seen the new add campaign for Frosted Mini Wheatswhich urges moms to put warm milk on their kids Mini Wheats in the morning to get them to eat their breakfast, the most important meal of the day for concentration and growth and to show them you love them, etc., etc. It struck me that overall this is a good idea.
There are multitudes of cereals that try to differentiate themselves by their shape, color, taste, texture, etc. But they are then all treated in the same way by pouring cold milk on them and eating. Very few have been able to stand out from the crowd by tweaking the milk component of the equation. A few cereal varieties have tried to change the color (and flavor) of the milk by turning it chocolaty brown or strawberry pink. But these tend to be frowned upon as overly sweet and unhealthy. Cheerios accidentally differentiated itself when new mothers discovered that they could eliminate the milk component all together and feed their toddlers dry Cheerios. The little round ‘O’s were easy to grab with little fingers, easy to chew and easy to sweep up when they invariably got thrown onto the floor. The application stuck and now Cheerios actively markets itself as the go-to cereal for moms that want to keep their little eating machines happily munching.
Changing the temperature of the milk to warm or hot tends to relegate cereal to an entirely different category. Cereals that call for heated milk such as Oatmeal, porridge, grits and Cream Of Wheat are in this category. Some granola can be eaten with hot milk. But it is possibly only Grape Nuts that has managed to develop a reputation for having the potential of eating it cold or hot. The problem… is that all of these cereals tend to be seen as breakfast for old people. No kid that I have come across likes Grape Nuts. Maybe because this is the type of breakfast that older peoples’ parents served to them. I myself remember many mornings of struggling through the product of my mother’s knack for turning oatmeal into paste. Maybe it’s because older people, let’s call them ‘adults’, are trying to eat more healthfully or loose weight. Maybe the Oatmeal jetpack doesn’t look like too much fun to kids. But whatever the reason, hot cereal is not usually looked upon with favor by people that are still trying to break the bonds of lower education.
So this is where Frosted Mini Wheats comes in. The new campaign suggests that mothers serve Frosted Mini Wheats to their kids using heated milk. This is a good idea for several reasons. First, I think the Mini Wheats physical structure can stand up to the heated environment, melting slightly into a warm wheaty mush. Second, this serves to differentiate Frosted Mini Wheats from the hordes of other boxed cereals that are served cold. Even if it is a gimmick, it is still a factor that sets this cereal apart from the others.
The other reasons that this is a good idea are where the wheels of the campaign fall off. The first problem is that it is obvious that the suggestion to serve Frosted Mini Wheats with heated milk is a marketing ploy to mom. Warm milk reminds her of the warm cereals her mother fed her and conjure a sense of wholesomeness and healthfulness. She doesn’t have the time to stir a pot full of Oatmeal or grits in the morning while trying to get ready for work. Not to mention that her kids won’t eat that gloppy stuff. But she still wants her kids to eat well. What to do? Serving Frosted Mini Wheats with warm milk connects her to memories of healthy upbringing and makes her feel like she is being a good mother. Like her mother was. From the kid’s perspective, it doesn’t matter to him either way. He can eat his Frosted Mini Wheats with cold milk as easily as warm. Cold is actually faster. But if mom wants to heat the milk then fine.
This would all be well and good except that the major disconnect is that the Frosted Mini Wheat add campaign is geared toward kids – not mom. The kids interact with the little talking cereal characters while mom quickly microwaves the milk in the background. Oddity then ensues. The cereal guys give the kid no real good reason why eating Mini Wheats hot is better than cold. Instead they just treat the situation as if the kid has stumbled onto their morning post-workout hot tub session. Which should be awkward enough in and of itself. But there is something more cringe-worthy going on here. The kid and the mini wheat guys act like a typical dysfunctional family by not talking about the major issues that they have between them and how destructive their behaviors are. The fact that one of them is about to eat the others he is talking to is downright strange. And why it is that the Mini Wheat guys don’t plead with him for their lives is even more troubling. Really, they should be trying to distract him from picking up his spoon. “Hey kid, we saw your mom put poison in here with us. Yeah that’s right. She is trying to get rid of you because of that ‘B’ you got in math.” And if they are using that bowl as a hot tub… does that make it seem more appetizing to the kid? Or less? “Hey kid! We just peed in here!” Or ‘Hey kid! Did you just see that bubble that came up? That was Blueberry!” Which also leads to the realization that the little towels on the side of the bowl mean only one thing – the cereal is naked. Their wheaty little naughty bits steaming in the warm milk. These images don’t enhance my sense of yumminess very much. But maybe kids haven’t spent enough time around health clubs yet to know the dangers of communicable diseases and microbe multiplication in warm environments… And I won’t even go into the issue of the Mini Wheats cracking jokes about seeing each others ‘eight layers’ under their towels. Strange indeed.
I think that the base idea of differentiating Frosted Mini Wheats from other cereals by talking about how it can be enjoyed with heated milk is a strong idea. Very few cereals have the ability to stand up to both cold and hot milk applications. And competition is such that any edge will help. But this message should be delivered to the parents. Not to the kids. Talk to mom and dad about how heating the milk is a good way to get their kids to eat a healthy breakfast. Otherwise they won’t and their academic performance will suffer (never mind the frosted side of the Mini Wheat that draws the kids like flies to raw meat). And this warmth will remind them of their youth and the bowls of bubbling gloop their overbearing mothers would force them to eat. Ah… good memories. But to tangle the warmth and goodness idea with anthropomorphic food and a play on pant-less male bonding in hot tubs directed at the kids ends up sending the wrong message to the wrong audience. And a troubling message at that. But it has lots of joke potential… and for that we can thank Kellogg’s.