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The Future of Cereal Packaging Includes a Digital Surprise



What did you read as you ate breakfast this morning? The newspaper or the back of the cereal box?

It’s a funny bit of pop culture behavior, reading cereal boxes, but Mark Addicks of General Mills says that on average, a person reads the text on their box 12 times. Some of those people are looking for calorie counts and nutritional information, but many are just passing the time as they eat.

I guess it’s a habit we developed as kids, since many cereal boxes came with games and fun facts on the back. Or perhaps it’s because cereal boxes are one of the few packaged items that we actually put on the table when we eat. Think about it. I’m having a frozen pizza, but the box is in the trash, not on the table.

Whatever the reason, we do love to read our cereal boxes, so General Mills is working on ways to extend the experience using something else you have at the breakfast table, your cell phone.

Addicks spoke with USAToday about how General Mills is bringing digital to the table (literally.) Some of the tie-ins are obvious, such as a QR code that leads to a related recipe. Some are more fanciful, such as QR codes that open game apps or a recent Honey Nut Cheerios code that displayed a video all about honey.

Addicks said he envisions these apps as a digital version of the surprise inside the box. It’s true that kids are tech savvy and many have their own cell phones, but can a download be as enticing as a physical prize in a box? It’s probably cheaper to go digital, and it avoids many of the legal hassles that come with packaging toys for kids. Still, there’s nothing like jamming your hand down inside a box of sticky, dusty cereal in order to claim the prize before your siblings get to it.

But digital packaging isn’t only for cereal. General Mills is working on adding assets to their whole line of products from cake mixes to snack bars. How about a downloadable pedometer app attached to a low calorie yogurt or an interactive Olympic schedule on a box of Wheaties?

A family at the breakfast table is a captive audience. Ten years ago, we would have laughed at the concept of eating breakfast with a phone in hand. But today, the average family comes to the table with two or more cell phones at the ready. That makes it the perfect time to draw them into a brand with digital information and entertainment.

Let’s have a little fun today and share our favorite cereal box memories!

  • http://www.microsourcing.com/disciplines/social-media-marketing.asp MicroSourcing

    It’s a clever way of bringing digital concepts to people through a very common household item, which should help its visibility.

  • Shravan

    I think you are missing the importance of having something tangible in the box. QR codes have generally not been received well as its too virtual. My suggestion: If you want a digital experience and you want to give something away, rather throw a memory stick into the box, with the video or applications you want to share, saved on the stick.

    Thats a great digital gift, and if you set the files to auto-open, your clients will see the material when the stick is used. They can of course delete the files later and use the stick for other things, but if you brand the stick on the outside, they will always associate it with the brand….