Riding the Economic Wave Like Tony the Tiger

So Tony the Tiger is 60 this year.  A sobering fact that had us pondering important things like: How does Tony keep his youthful appearance?  Has the FDA approved Botox for tigers?

Tony loves surfing with a cardboard box full of Frosted Flakes

Another thought we had, beyond how many bowls of sugar-coated corn we’ve ingested over the years, was how Tony and his bosses at Kellogg’s actually convinced us eat them.   As a child of the 80s or an earlier decade, you might remember the company’s focus was squarely on kids.  The message was, “Hey kids, this cereal is fun, tastes grrrreat (sorry, couldn’t resist) and helps you elicit your ‘inner tiger’ to excel at [insert sport here].”

This strategy worked wonders for most of the 20thcentury creating millions of young fans that became adult fans who, in turn, helped Tony create new consumers of their own children.  But as political correctness and food regulation began to creep into advertising in the 1990s, Tony was no longer allowed to talk directly to kids and so he began talking to their moms.  After all, moms buy the groceries and moms had nostalgia for Frosted Flakes, so why not encourage them to share a bowl with their kids?  That new strategy worked for nearly two decades and had Tony clocking in as the fourth best-selling cereal in America in 2008.

Then the recession hit and, all of a sudden, husbands were laid off and wives were still at (or went back to) work.  Adding that to the fact Gen X and Millennial men were already taking a more active role in traditionally “maternal” chores of the home and you get a survey from earlier this year saying 51% of men age 18-64 (50% of them fathers) consider themselves the primary grocery shopper.  While even the survey’s designers admit that men might be somewhat overestimating their role, clearly Kellogg’s sees the same trend in their data, because they launched a new commercial campaign squarely targeting the “man of the house” in this new ad that was also shot using various ethnicities for different markets.


So what can your company and marketing plans for 2012 take from all this?  For starters, it shows that even the largest, most recognizable and well-established brands must occasionally shift strategy or focus to maintain their leadership positions and relevancy.  Just because Tony has been on or near the top for two thirds of a century, doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to stay there and he has Kellogg’s deep pockets to help him maintain that position.  Do you have Kellogg’s marketing budget? Not many do, so that means you have to be more creative to keep up with your customers’ ever evolving needs and perspectives.  Whether it’s a change in how they buy groceries or what type of packaging best sells your product to them, you need to be able to move with the tides not try to resist or direct them.

Technetium works with both young companies and established brands to monitor and respond to the ever-changing market conditions so that our clients are riding the wave instead of being crushed by it.  Is your current marketing partner or team giving you a surfboard or a life raft?  If it’s the latter you should definitely head over to the contact page and let us know a good time to speak with you.  Until next time, hang ten!