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Co-branding Healthy Oatmeal With ... Cinnamon Rolls?

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Let’s face it: Hot cereal may be nutritious and taste good, but it isn’t too exciting. So what can a brand like Cream of Wheat do to up the ante? Co-brand. But which brand could they partner with that offers a win-win scenario for both? Enter Cinnabon.

Co-branding can be a boon to brands---or a bust. It really depends on the strength of both and compatibility. Many have tried and failed. But this deal between Cream of Wheat and Cinnabon might work.

In a recent Media Post article, Cream of Wheat marketing VP, Jordan Greenberg says, “When we spoke to consumers, the Cinnabon flavor profile ranks very, very high.” I hope they did more research than this, but it’s a start!

Interestingly, Cream of Wheat already has a hot “Cinnamon Swirl” cereal, and Cinnabon has a branded cold cereal in supermarkets. So what’s the differentiator in a marriage between these two brands?

For one thing, the new Cream of Wheat flavor will incorporate the same cinnamon blend and frosting that Cinnabon uses in its famous rolls. For another, hot cereal---unlike cold---releases far more aroma. As Greenberg succinctly states, “. . .the hot cereal provides more of the overall Cinnabon experience. It gives off the smell of a Cinnabon.”

Though traditional advertising will support the product roll-out, sampling in key markets is going to be a very important element of the marketing strategy. Social media will also be used to promote the product and send out free sample coupons.

Greenberg says, “The sampling is the most important part of it because it’s a product that once you smell it and once you taste it, you’re going to fall in love with the product.”

Questions:
• Do you think this co-branded product will be a winner?
• Are the brands compatible? (Cream of Wheat = healthy and Cinnabon = cinnamon rolls with frosting) Will translating this flavor profile into hot cereal make sense?
• How about the strategy and tactics being used to promote it?

I’d love to hear from you.


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Ted Mininni is president of Design Force, Inc. (www.designforceinc.com), a leading brand-design consultancy to consumer product companies (phone: 856-810-2277). Ted is also a regular contributor to the MarketingProfs blog, the Daily Fix.

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Comments

  • by Frank Martin Thu Sep 30, 2010 via blog

    A winner? No way. It can and should seriously erode the Cream of Wheat brand. People associate Cream of Wheat with healthy, and Cinnabon with decadent indulgence! How can the two inhabit the same space?
    Compatible? Yes, like a Church-based swingers group - or a KKK diversity message.
    Strategy? WAY too broad. Tactics? increasing awareness will increase confusion.

    It never ceases to amaze me what marketers can come up with. Seriously, have they done any qualitative testing on this concept at all?

  • by Ted Mininni Thu Sep 30, 2010 via blog

    Frank,
    You raise excellent points. Thanks for weighing in here. I, too, have reservations about this move on the part of Cream of Wheat and for the reasons you point out. As for research, notice the article states the company
    "spoke to consumers" about this, and the smell sells. So the question is, will smell and taste win customers over alone? Will most health-conscious consumers overlook the Cinnabon brand attributes because it's a healthy, hot cereal choice? We'll find out soon enough, right?

  • by Frank Martin Thu Sep 30, 2010 via blog

    Ted, I don't know for sure, but this looks to be a situation where the wrong type of research was used when they "spoke to consumers". The Cinnabon smell is one of the most seductive in the universe, and of course people are going to love it! I will definitely follow this with interest! Thanks for the post.

  • by Ted Mininni Thu Sep 30, 2010 via blog

    You're right, Frank. At first blush it doesn't look as though in-depth research was conducted at all. But who knows? Many of these articles are skimpy on details and facts. We're going into the season for hot cereal products, so it won't take us long to get the scoop on this co-branding venture.

  • by Paul Williams Fri Oct 1, 2010 via blog

    They've been junking up "healthy" hot breakfast foods for years.

    Actually - we junk up all healthy things. I tried to buy plain rice cakes the other day, and couldn't find one. Just like granola bars, started as healthy, and now you can only get them dipped in chocolate, covered in yogurt and frosting. Flavors were caramel corn, chocolate crunch, white cheddar, and buttered pop corn...

    Back to the breakfast aisle. Check out the line-up of oatmeal flavors. Cinnabon is simply a branded version of "maple and brown sugar."

    Sampling is the secret to most polarizing flavors. Just like cinnamon flavored Life cereal and their "try it, you'll like it."

    I love old school Cream Of Wheat, but it is like a box of plain oatmeal. Unless you know how to cook and are willing to spice it up at home with flavors it can be a "why bother" product.

    Especially when I can add some hot water to a pack of instant oatmeal that is cinnamon and spice, maple and brown sugar, and apples and cinnamon in the same package.

    On a tangent rant... We Americans fool ourselves into thinking we're eating healthy with foods that have a base of granola bar, rice cakes, oat meal and Cream of Wheat cereal. But then we trick-out the flavoring and add the fat which makes them "taste good."

    We think we're being all healthy with my granola bar... But ends up with as much fat and calories as a Milky Way.

    Funny... Quaker makes the flavored rice cakes AND oatmeal AND granola bars I mention...

  • by Ted Mininni Fri Oct 1, 2010 via blog

    Hi Paul,
    I love your comments and thank you for making them. You are so right. Many foods commonly touted as "healthy choices" are anything but. They're sometimes loaded with "additives", artificial colors, flavors, high fructose corn syrup, and even candy! The simpler and cleaner a product is, ie, basic oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, shredded wheat, basic rice cakes, etc, the healthier they generally are. What's happening here? Companies like Quaker know consumers are looking for healthier choices. Note I said "healthier" not necessarily "healthy". They also know consumers are used to and like their sugar, chocolate, caramel, etc. So I think they're striking what they see as a balance between offering healthier choices that suit customer tastes. That makes it tough for those of us who are just plain looking for "healthy". To get those kinds of products, Paul, I suggest you go to Whole Foods or your local natural products store. That's your best bet. Your articulate comments are very much appreciated, Paul. Thanks again.

  • by Elaine Fogel Fri Oct 1, 2010 via blog

    Ted, I'm no maven in grocery marketing or CPG, but from a consumer's perspective, this may work. I would think that many consumers are gullible to marketing messages and brand positioning. If the Cream of Wheat/Cinnabon product screams, "I'm sinfully delicious and good for you, too," I'll bet there will be a sound market for it.

    The "real" health-conscious consumers probably aren't buying Cream of Wheat anyway. The bran and most of the germ are removed, and the cereal is sometimes enriched with B vitamins and iron. I guess that's why B & G came out with its whole grain Cream of Wheat.

    For true health gourmands, using unrefined, unprocessed, natural oatmeal, dressed up however you want, is still the all-natural hot cereal. It ain't sexy, and that's why I believe that Cream of Wheat Cinnabon will sell. Who knows... it's still probably healthier than SpongeBob SquarePants™ Instant Hot Bikini Bottom Maple Brown Sugar. :)

  • by Ted Mininni Fri Oct 1, 2010 via blog

    Elaine,
    Thanks for sharing your insights on my post. I think this product does have a shot at selling well. Smelling and tasting go a long way with consumers. Basic Cream of Wheat is a far healthier choice than the flavored varieties, but in the end, consumers buy what they like, and for many, health considerations aren't at the top of the list. When it comes to purchasing foods based on "health considerations", there is a wide spectrum, as I said. Truly healthy and then healthier. Most consumers, I believe, are into "healthier" rather than "super healthy" choices. Having said that, sexy does sell, Elaine. Agreed. That's why I think the new cereal will do well. I always appreciate your input, Elaine. Good stuff.

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