Cereal companies have known for ages that the basic cereal grains are pretty difficult for anyone under the age of 60 to get excited about. They also knew the solution: Mask the blandness with sugar and food dyes, and press the result into fun shapes. It’s a perfect formula that worked for generations.
But then the ’70s and ’80s happened; the time when movies, TV and toys formed an unholy trinity of multi-media marketing. It was a time of great prosperity for the companies involved, and everyone wanted in on it — very much including the cereal companies.
You Might Say They Were Cereal About It
The mutually beneficial nature of cross-marketing made the proliferation of cereals a no-brainer for everyone involved. Each product reinforced the sales of the others. Imagine some little girl sitting in front of the TV on a Saturday morning in her Strawberry Shortcake pajamas. She’s so immersed in her Strawberry Shortcake cartoon that she’s heedless of the milk dripping on the Strawberry Shortcake doll in her lap as she slurps from her bowl of Strawberry Shortcake cereal.
Boys were even more heavily targeted. It became a world where wrestler Hulk Hogan and character actor Mr. T each had toy lines, cartoons and cereals, because it was getting difficult to find a star to latch onto.
So the companies turned to movie tie-ins. That’s how bad it was getting. Movies got their own cereal.
Go Big or Go Home
While examples exist from basically every cereal company — General Mills being a regular offender — no one went for it the way Ralston did.
You might recognize the name. It’s more commonly known as Ralston-Purina. The makers of Dog Chow. So basically a pet-food company diversified into cereal and promptly went completely insane. Here’s the proof.
For those keeping score at home, the above selection includes three toy tie-ins, two video game tie-ins, two candy tie-ins and five movie tie-ins — four for Ghostbusters alone.
We wanted to include some examples of the demented commercials for these cereals, but the mere memory of these nutrition-free sugar bombs is putting us into hypoglycemic shock. It was not for nothing, after all, that the commercials would often end by showing how the cereal was part of a complete breakfast.
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