The Breakfast Cereal Experiment: Your Brand on Social Media

This week, the topic of breakfast cereal kept popping up in my newsfeed.

Particularly, breakfast cereal experiment that Thrillist reporter, Will Fulton, took on caught my eye.

He, like many of us (at least those of us who grew up in America or the UK), holds a lingering passion for the breakfast of champions. So much that he committed to eating only cereal for an entire week. This was clearly about more than just cereal, as reported by CBS news: 

“As the bowls stacked up, he started seeing this lark as a social experiment, to answer an existential question: what is cereal’s place in my life, and in the life of people our age?”

It got me thinking, we humans are so nostalgic. #TBT has been widely used since at least 2014 and it is still going strong. That is light years in social media time! According to Daniel Pink in his latest book, When, “The benefits of thinking fondly about the past are vast because nostalgia delivers two ingredients essential to well-being: a sense of meaning and a connection to others.” Thing is though, it is more about the sense of meaning and connection to others that is the key here – nostalgia is simply the vehicle for that. 

Drawing upon Will’s experiment, is there is a lesson in here for marketers and preservers of brand integrity? Is there an opportunity to dig deeper and connect with customers, existing and potential, in a more thoughtful, human way? Is there an opportunity to make content resonate, to make engagement opportunities that really connect to them? Could this opportunity be uncovered by examining what role our brands play in our customers’ lives, current and past? 

So, what am I suggesting? 

Use social media to talk about your version of that childhood breakfast. What’s your brand’s parallel experience? How can you create connection and meaning? Use it to get people to share their connection, their experiences, what gives them meaning. For better or worse, brands are not just products and services, but often integral parts of some periods of our lives, and we often associate certain brands with specific memories and experiences. As our memories fade with time, the brands that helped shape those experiences stay to remind us, and can be powerful connection to our past selves. And, equally important, what you are creating now for your customers will be their future’s memories. 

So, what does that mean for your social media approach?

What’s beautiful about social media is that is where your consumers are already having these meaningful connections play out, so as a brand, you want to flow into that. Just because you’re using ad products to get more eyeballs, that doesn’t mean you need to use only traditional advertising to remind your customers (current and potential) that you’re here and you’re relevant to them.

Utilize the iterative, two-way communication nature of social media, where customers can respond and create conversation with you as a brand, as well as other people, to explore and identify those areas where your brand goes beyond the functional properties of your products. Let the customers “hijack” and “co-opt” your brand. Is there something more powerful than your customers feeling they “own” a part of your brand because it is a part of their own lives? No billboard, or magazine spread, or a TV ad can offer that outlet for the customers to be expressive and heard, and not just talked at. 

So, dig deeper. Go beyond your usual brand messaging and usual advertising approach.  Try the newer avenues of Instagram Stories. Use polls and get the results via DM’s if you’d like to try it out more “privately” first. Explore different options, and get creative. The result could create a real connection with your consumers.

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