Brand Strategy

The Experience Economy: How to Make Boring Old Cereal Matter

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Ellie Pierce

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The Experience Economy

Here’s how it goes down:

“Should we do social?”

“Oh, yeah—good idea! Let’s do social!”

I’m sorry. Can we clear something up? “Let’s do social” is not an idea.

Social is a tactic. Not an idea.

An idea—at least, the kind of idea that can actually drive a modern campaign—is much bigger.

I recently heard about one great example of an idea for a marketing campaign on NPR—Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, to be specific (What can I say … I’m a Peter Segal fan).

Kellogg’s partnered up with Christina Tosi, a chef who built her reputation on indulgent, high end takes on sugary foods that kids tend to be obsessed with. She’s famous for inventing Cereal Milk as well as a personal family favorite in my house, Crack Pie.

Last month, Kellogg’s and Tosi opened Kellogg’s NYC, a restaurant in Times Square that serves creative, inventive bowls of cereal.

You read that right. Inventive bowls of cereal.

What’s in an Idea?

Here’s an idea: What if you could sleep in a Van Gogh painting?

What if we closed our stores on Black Friday and encouraged people to get outside instead?

What if we published a newspaper without any images?

What if we opened a restaurant in New York that served Crispix with fresh peaches and chia tea powder? Or a sundae topped with Froot Loops, lime zest, marshmallows, and passion fruit jam.

These ideas are the currency of the experience economy.

It’s also worth noting: Kellogg’s NYC is not a popup. They signed a five-year lease.

The experience at the restaurant isn’t typical, either. You order from a person, but when your cereal is ready, a buzzer alerts you, and you then head to a particular cupboard where you discover your bowl of cereal. You might also find a treat, just like you used to find in your cereal box—except the treat could be anything from a plastic “diamond” ring to a pair of Hamilton tickets.

This particular idea takes something existing, something well known and well worn, and colors it with a new, creative lens. And it’s an idea that will help make cereal—boring old cereal—matter to people in way it hasn’t for a long time.

People love an experience. People love novelty. They will care enough about this experience to share what they see at Kellogg’s NYC.

The Experience Economy

Kellogg’s NYC is a perfect example of story-doing instead of storytelling—this is something my fellow LSBers Todd and Lindsay recently talked about in the first edition of the LSB Marketing Toddcast.

A brand does something interesting, and people interact with it. Then media gets interested and writes about it—and the earned media pickup on the Kellogg’s NYC story is huge.

It’s been written about in Eater, The New York Times, CNN Money, USA Today, and on the Instagram and Snapchat of just about everyone who’s visited the restaurant so far. If you’d like to check it out, search the hashtags: #KelloggsNYC and #StirItUpNYC.

But wait a minute, didn’t this campaign start with a tactic? The story-doing tactic? A tactic that’s just aimed at the experience economy?

Is that as bad as starting with “Let’s do social?”

Ideas solve business problems

Nope. Kellogg’s NYC started with a problem.

The problem: People are eating less cereal. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, cereal sales dropped 8.1 percent from 2010 to 2015. Andrew Shripka, associate director of brand marketing at Kellogg’s, said, “We could have put a great recipe on the box. But this is so much more powerful.”

The Wall Street Journal piece went on to say, “In the experience economy, it’s no longer enough for brands to shill products in magazines or on TV. Customers want to interact. Think Ralph Lauren’s Polo Bar, a clubby, wood-paneled restaurant on Fifth Avenue, or the Armani hotels in Milan and Dubai that envelop the clientele in an elegant world of creamy beige silk.”

Or a restaurant where you can get a bowl of Special K with Frosted Flakes, pistachios, lemon zest and thyme.

Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?


Ellie Pierce

Can execute figurative cartwheels, just not the literal kind. #NopeForever

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