The following is the third in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This presents an analysis of the various Web sites associated with Kellogg's cereal brands, including packaging which directs users to the Web site. The first part of this series focused on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green, while the second part focused on the actual presentation of Kellogg's products in the grocery store.
An attention to the "healthiness" of its products appears to be the primary way that products are marketed to parents. Many of the children's cereals include a "Breakfast Nook" section which outlines some of the healthy aspects of its various cereal lines. This content becomes a major feature, though, when we move to the online version of the Kellogg's brands. This includes a link to Kidnetic.com, an independent Web site that focuses on conveying to children from 9-14 to incorporate a healthy diet into their lifestyle. Although this is out of the age range of our study, parents may look at the site themselves or help their children navigate some of its features. Kellogg's also features several simple online games that espouse the products' nutritional features and provides all the nutritional facts and guides for parents online. The company appears very well aware that the concerns of increasingly astute parents--the consumers who still control the funding for this age group--must be addressed for the product to be successful, much as video games marketed to this age group must be. For more on this aspect of marketing video games to parents, see Carolyn Handler Miller's piece "Tackling Products for Children," part of her 2004 book Digital Storytelling: A Creator's Guide to Interactive Entertainment, available here.
While products are marketed to parents primarily through these various appeals to the products "healthiness," the games provided on the site for children provides much more than just nutritional information. This is the site where children can do more than look at or read about the characters involved in the various Kellogg's brands. Here, children actively engage with the various Kellogg's characters through the Kellogg's Funk Town site. The site features a theater, a SportsPlex (whose main site is a boys locker room, indicating that this area in particular is especially marketed toward boys), a Pirates of the Caribbean tie-in, and an arcade, among many others. The features of the arcade are various fairly simply video games that emphasize skills such as speed, racing, and investigating a particular landscape. While this tie-in to basic video game design and technology does not provide children with much of a communal experience, in that these games are all one-player, it does provide a chance to interact with the characters of the various brands and an imaginative universe associated with the Kellogg's brands that children can discuss and navigate together. These games are the company's most blatant attempt to capture the "hypersocial" and "remixed" nature of much children's entertainment in contemporary America, as Mizuko Ito writes about in "Technologies of the Childhood Imagination: Media Mixes, Hypersociality, and Recombinant Cultural Form."
While the nature of the Kellogg's product limits the ways the product can focus on social networking, at least as the products have been marketed to this point, the company's emphasis on social networking chiefly comes through appeals to a family breakfast. Through its television advertisements, on-box marketing, and its Web site, Kellogg's chiefly still appeals to the at-home family demographic rather than a peer demographic that many other products now reach for. This is primarily because cereal is something consumed in the morning and likely will still be done as a family more than most other products marketed at children entering school. So, for instance, the main page of the Kellogg's in Spanish site features an entire family of husband, wife, and children enjoying Kellogg's cereals together at the breakfast table, each, of course, with glasses of orange juice and milk at the table. This appeal to family consumption works particularly well with products such as Corn Flakes, which is intentionally not marketed toward a specific age or gender demographic but rather encouraged to be consumed as a communal family event. This family experience is marketed in several ways, including merchandise and clothing of various Kellogg's products in sizes and variations for the whole family, available through the Web site store, and promotes the continued perpetuation of Kellogg's cereal as an experience, not a mere commodity, as Pine and Gilmore write about in The Experience Economy.