Brand Saga: Kellogg’s India Part 1 – Making cereal mainstream…

Kellogg's India advertising journey

International giant, Kellogg’s has been around for 25 years on the Indian shores. The Kellogg’s India advertising journey epitomizes the saga of a firm belief in oneself and the determination to never give up.

India, as they say, is a diverse country where every 1000 kilometers sees a distinct culture, race, traditions, and food. From Chole Bhature in the North to South India’s idli-dosa-vada, undoubtedly, we Indians have been hailed as big foodie. Early India, fancied poha, parathas, and idlis as the go-to- breakfast. In a culture, so particular about its taste and eating habits, how challenging would it be for a foreign brand like Kellogg’s to launch not only a product but a category (cereals)? The answer lies in the Kellogg’s India advertising journey which stood the test of time and made a comeback only to taste success.

Looking at the vast brand journey of Kellogg’s India we roll two parts of its saga. In the first part, we traverse through the entry of Kellogg’s in India, its initial marketing strategy- days of failure, and the comeback plan.

Enter – Kellogg’s

In 1898, J.H. Kellogg and W. K. Kellogg developed first corn flake and started to commercialize cereal products for patients at the Battle Creek Sanatorium, Michigan. In 1906, the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company by the name of ‘Kellogg’s’ was founded by W.K. Kellogg. The US-based multinational food manufacturing firm began expanding its base in foreign countries like Canada as the ready to eat cereal segment gained eyeballs.

By the late 1980s, Kellogg’s brands captured nearly 40% of the total ready-to-eat breakfast market but soon enough started facing stiff competition from other multinationals like General Mills. After seeing that the company lose its share and the stagnant growth of the cereal industry in the US and the UK, Kellogg’s helmers scouted for potential markets to keep the ship sailing.  

India was still an untapped market for the ready-to-eat cereal category and that gave Kellogg’s an opportunity to set foot on the land in 1994 after the Indian government opened the doors for international trade.

Creating an Unwanted Category

While the West was habituated to cereals and preferred lighter food for breakfast, Indians vehemently followed the age-old adage- ‘Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper’.

Kellogg’s very well knew that it was not going to be a cakewalk to debut in India – a land imbibed with varied eating habits and culture. The challenges were many and opportunities less. To make and create demand for healthy cereals in the lives of people who were accustomed to a traditional breakfast was a task in itself.

The challenge lied in not only promoting its products but also creating demand and need for a ready to eat cereal breakfast which did not aim at replacing the usual paratha but gave consumers a healthy option to stay fit.

When it entered the Indian market, the brand invested a whopping of US $ 65 billion followed by a high profile launch. Kellogg’s bought it’s most sought after product ‘cornflakes’ and its variants Basmati flakes, wheat flakes to the Indian consumers.

The Failure

Despite positioning ‘cornflakes’ as the healthy ready-to-eat food complemented by media frenzy, the product distribution wasn’t up to the mark. Poor customization and premium prizes with presence in fewer cities, wasn’t a hit.

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Though the initial numbers looked encouraging, Kellogg’s soon realized that people were buying its products out of novelty and curiosity which transpired into an onetime purchase. The company somehow failed in converting the consumers into the regular ones or did little effort in persuading them to buy it the second time. The sales saw a hit in 1995 and it soon became a matter of survival and sustenance for Kellogg’s in India.

According to various reports, the key reason for Kellogg’s loss was the fact that the flavor of its products did not match Indian palette & preferences preference.

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Initial Advertising

The Kellogg’s India advertising journey seemed to be crashing in its early days as the company growth became stagnant. It initially positioned cornflakes as a healthy alternative to heavy Indian breakfasts and communicated that the other traditional food possessed high calories and fats which were unhealthy.

Brand custodians believed that the very first mistake that Kellogg’s was positioning itself as a substitute for Indian breakfast followed by pricing them at higher rates. The urban middle-class Indian population felt the urge to eat more even after consuming a bowl of cornflakes with cold milk as it did not satiate the accustomed appetite.

From consuming spicy and hot Indian breakfast to shifting gears and eating the sweet cornflakes in milk which made them soggy was a huge difference to get transpired into a habit. Kellogg’s had to move beyond it’s ‘healthy’ positioning and re-look at its strategies to sustain in the Indian market.

Indianizing Kellogg’s – The Comeback Strategy

After identifying the need gap and the keyholes, Kellogg’s set out to Indianize its products. It soon started localizing the products and launched Chocos in 1996 and Frosties in 1997.

Going into the product specifics – Kellogg’s Chocos and Frosties caught India’s fancy and sales significantly rise. Chocos were wheat scoops with a coating of chocolate whereas Frosties had sugar frosting on each individual flakes. Both the variants were pegged as kids’ favorite, thus convincing parents to indulge their kids in healthy & tasty breakfast.

Kellogg’s further rolled out Mazza (crunchy, almond-shaped corn breakfast cereal) series in August 1998 and positioned it as a tasty, nutritional breakfast cereal in three local flavors of Rose, Mango Elaichi, and Coconut Kesar.

Not stopping here, later in 2000, Iron Shakti from the house of Kellogg’s saw the light of the day followed by Special K plus in 2008, targeting female and was projected as a low-fat breakfast.

Revised Communication

With the new variants working, the company reduced the price of their products and began to offer a wider range of package sizes to appeal to different customers. With revised product packaging, pricing, and placement – going beyond the urban population- Kellogg’s changed its product positioning and messaging where it placed itself as a fun-filled choice rather than a healthy and nutritious one.

Above and below the line methods were adopted to promote the products exploring mediums like print, radio, outdoor and TV.

In 1997, Kellogg’s launched ‘The Kellogg Breakfast Week,’ a community-oriented initiative to generate awareness about the importance of breakfast. The program was conducted in Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai and was focused on the prevention of anemia and conducted a series of nutrition workshops activities for both individuals and families.

With its initial marketing hitting a snag, Kellogg’s soon got on the right tracks after adopting a Glocal (think global but act local) method to customize its products and modify its messaging instead of simply copy-pasting the international promotions.

The famous rooster which signified morning around the world forKellogg’s cornflakes was missing from its Indian counterparts. The new TVC’s and communication across featured Indian families getting together on the table to share the morning breakfast with Kellogg’s.

The new TVCs, banners, and promotional creatives featured Kellogg’s as a fun brand and one that is irresistible with taglines like ‘Jago Jaise bhi, to Kellogg’s hi, `Naye Saal ki Sahi Shuruat, lo’ and more.

It depicted various relations, which are an integral part of Indian culture from the mother child’s selfless relationship to the family member’s relationship with each other.

The CHOCOS range was a hit among the kids and adults equally with most of them slurping it with he cold milk. The brand was positioned as ‘The irresistible taste of chocolate’ and promoted heavily.

The mascot of Chocos in India was Chocos the Bear until 2005 when he was replaced by Coco the Monkey, who is also the mascot of Cocoa Krispies. The advertisements conceptualized by JWT India featuring Karishma Kapoor and Juhi Chawla pitched the benefits of a whole grain breakfast to mothers. 

Through TVCs, the brand conveyed that Kellogg’s Chocos made with whole grain is yet another step to encourage kids to start the day with a good breakfast – to prepare them for a great day in school.  

In the second part of the Kellogg’s India Advertising Journey brand saga, we will deep dive into its marketing strategy for a vast range of products including Kellogg’s All-Bran Wheat Flakes, Kellogg’s Special K, four variants of Kellogg’s Muesli, Kellogg’s Honey Loops and Kellogg’s Oats & the brand’s take on digital marketing.