April 5, 2007
Cereality as an Interesting Example of an Experience Economy

I recently had some e-mail correspondence with B. Joseph Pine, who co-authored the influential book The Experience Economy with James H. Gilmore. Pine had read our recent series here on Kellogg's and the way the history of the marketing of breakfast cereals, including a multi-part look at the way modern breakfast cereals are marketed in the store and through Web extensions.

The series, called The Cereal Serial is available here, here, here, and here.

Pine pointed me toward a restaurant idea, launched in 2004, that makes particularly interesting use of this "experience economy" mentality, called Cereality.

In short, Cereality is a Cereal Bar, a breakfast shop decorated vaguely like a kitchen, with shelves and a pantry that features cereal boxes. The company calls their product "a new choice in fast food," serving cereal to customers and allowing them to choose from among their favorite cereal brands. The Web site touts that "Pajama-clad Cereologists fill the orders. And customers choose and add their own milk, just the way they like it."

From a food standpoint, the experience is not that key. After all, they're just serving breakfast cereal, the same packaged cereals you can buy at any grocery store. But this is about the culture around cereal eating, for those who have a bowl of cereal at night while they watch TV, and it's tied into the longtime children's marketing associated with cereal consumption, a place where one can let their inner-kid out. The site says, "If you are interested in more than just a bowl of cereal, you've come to the right place."

As of this month, Cereality has six corporate-owned locations. Many of these are located on or near universities, such as a location near the University of Pennsylvania, Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., and Arizona State University in Tempe. They also have a Chicago and location and a Cereality in the Newark Airport.

There are two franchise locations opening in State College, Penn., and Charleston, S.C.

The company even does distance catering, sending individualized cereal-based combos out for events. Perhaps even cereal at your wedding?

It's probably no coincidence that Cereality has targeted college campuses as a place to launch a brand that is more about the experience of nostalgia for youth, tied into the marketing for cereal. There is something delectably immature about the idea of wearing your PJs out to a restaurant to have a bowl of Count Chocula or Fruity Pebbles. And in a culture where the fun and innocence of youth, and the perpetual extension of adolescence, is a major part of the modern lifestyle, Cereality has found a niche.

See my previous posts about "experience economy" related to fan tourism at Fenway Park and the drive-in theater.