When I was a child, the retrieval of the plastic gizmo from the cereal box was a very disciplined affair in our household. No plunging in and scrabbling around for the plastic toy for us. The cereal would be poured into our bowls, and if nothing emerged, we had to wait for the next day. Given what is on offer inside cereal boxes today – including CDs and books – it’s amazing how exciting we found the whole exercise.
Today, the UK ready-to-eat cereal market (as opposed to hot cereals) is worth &£950m, with 700 million packs of cereal consumed each year.
According to Cereal Partners UK (CPUK) marketing director Dez Timmiss, the high penetration and competitiveness of this sector makes it ideal for on-pack promotions.
He says: “As a grocery sector, it has one of the highest household penetration figures, with more than 95 per cent of UK households buying cereal each year. Each household buys on average 35 boxes a year. The market is competitive, with all major manufacturers investing heavily in advertising (last year the category spent &£80m on advertising) and also in consumer promotions and trade activity.”
He adds: “In a developed category like cereals where there is little opportunity to grow, most growth for manufacturers comes from brand switching. That’s the reason why promotions are so important. Most households will have a repertoire of cereals and getting your brands back into this repertoire is the marketing task.”
CPUK is the partnership between Nestlé and General Mills formed in 1990 to market breakfast cereals in the UK. Its brands include Shredded Wheat (and related sub-brands), Cheerios, Golden Nuggets, Golden Grahams, Clusters, Nesquik, Fibre 1, Sporties, Monsters Inc. Cereal and Cookie Crisp Cereal.
The Shredded Wheat brand is unique in this stable (apart, possibly from Fibre 1), because it has a distinct target market that does not include children. With a target market of people aged over 45 years old, Shredded Wheat does not have to compete against the scores of promotions aimed at children, but it does have to appeal to a demographic that may not be as easily swayed. It competes head-on with products like Bran Flakes and Whole Grain.
The Shredded Wheat TV ads are fronted by Ian Botham, who talks about the benefits of a whole grain cereal in helping to maintain a healthy heart. Timmiss says this campaign has helped volume sales of the product increase by 14 per cent over the past three years.
Martin McInnes is managing director of five communication, which develops point of sale and promotions packaging design for Nestlé’s brands. He says: “Shredded Wheat has a clear positioning. It doesn’t trade on taste. Instead it is an incredibly healthy cereal with nothing added to it. It is aimed at people who are interested in their health and longevity.”
Timmiss says: “For adult brands, promotions tend to be less frequent. It is probably harder to find offers that get adults as excited in the cereal aisles as kids do.”
Sowing the seeds
Earlier this year, the brand ran a free in-pack promotion with a packet of Alan Titchmarsh seeds displayed prominently in a small window on the front of the pack.
Timmiss says: “Here the consumer was getting something of real value (worth about &£2) and something that was of interest to the target market. It was also easy to access because consumers didn’t have to send off or collect tokens. Not only was the promotion attractive to new or occasional buyers, but with five different varieties of seeds to collect, it also encouraged heavier usage among current users.”
Another promotion run by Shredded Wheat earlier this year was linked to the British Heart Foundation’s WalkAbout UK – a collection of 150 different fundraising walks throughout the country. An on-pack promotion, also developed by five communication, meant Shredded Wheat signed up as the first sponsor for any consumer who sent off for an application pack. The sponsorship was worth &£5 per person.
The final promotion to be run on-pack this year connects Shredded Wheat with Thomson Holidays, where consumers can get up to &£300 off a holiday by collecting vouchers on pack. Landround, a travel promotion specialist, developed the offer, which will be supported by a TV campaign later this month.
Timmiss says: “This is the first travel promotion for a long time on the Shredded Wheat brand. Thomson is such a well known brand that it adds to the overall appeal and perceived value of the offer. It will also be more accessible to a large number of consumers. At this time of year, people are starting to think about their holidays for the following year, so we thought this was the best time to run this kind of promotion.”
Timmiss says the key to running successful promotions is to “make sure you understand your target market and know exactly what they are into”.
He adds: “I see many promotions on shelf where for me, as a marketer, the overall objective isn’t that clear. Promotions that reinforce your positioning in an overt way tend not to be the best penetration drivers and vice versa. Another key thing is simplicity. So many promotions expect consumers to jump through hoops in understanding and accessing their promotions. In reality, your average consumer can’t be bothered or isn’t motivated enough to this.”
Against a background of some controversy about whether tactical promotions are worth measuring or not, Timmiss insists that all marketing activity is evaluated.
He says: “There’s no reason why on-pack promotions can’t be subjected to the same evaluation as other marketing events. Any marketing activity we undertake is evaluated against the initial objectives that we set – measuring the amount of trade we were able to secure, the volume uplift, impact on penetration, and average weight of purchase.
“The hardest part of evaluation is probably being able to separate the many different things that might be happening on a brand at a specific time,” he explains.