Portion Control In Kellogg's Social Media Diet

The tipping point came last night when I saw an ad for Kellogg in the box on my Yahoo home page where the weather usually resides. It promised $10 in "exclusive coupons," recipes, special offers, nutrition tips, etc., etc., all in return for identities and addresses -- online, offline and mobile (optional). No problem. Everybody loves a bargain. I now get $1.50 off if -- and a very big if -- I purchase any THREE packages of Apple Jacks, Corn Pops, Froot Loops and/or Frosted Flakes Cereals.

Earlier in the week while searching online for a butternut squash recipe or something, I somehow wound up at the new-fashioned recipe swap over at Kellogg's Mixing Bowl, where there are 135 members of the Comfort Food Bliss group, 33 members of Creative Crackers and a whopping 1,381 members of "Affordable Dinners ... FAST!" I could not find something along the lines of "Nutty and Fruity Organics" although "Homesteading Ideas & Heirloom Seed Swap" (102 members) has potential.



I remembered reading somewhere about this social media thrust out of Battle Creek and sure enough, Brandweek's Elaine Wong had an interview a few months ago with Jose-Alberto Duenas, Kellogg's marketing vp of ready-to-eat cereals, about "How Special K Became a Social Media Star." One key insight of that article was Duenas' observation that "You can't, in a way, start from scratch with social media, especially because consumers have to have a certain level of engagement with the brand."

That brings us to a piece in this week's Advertising Age by Brian Sheehan, formerly of Saatchi & Saatchi and now an associate professor of advertising at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University. He wants to know "Why Big Brands Are Dominating Social Media" when the cost of entry is so low. While granting that mega-marketers have more resources to experiment -- see Kellogg's efforts above -- he says it's a crisis of imagination. "Small brands need to think smaller! Big ones already are," he concludes. (Some pesky commentators respond "Posh, it really does all come down to resources.")

Back to Kellogg. Last week it announced a new myPlan Special K app for iPhone and Android that offers people a new way to take the Special K Challenge. You know from print and TV ads, of course, that the challenge is a two-week "weight management" program that will get you into those "skinny jeans." I downloaded it and was amazed at how easy it can be to eat Kellogg's products morning, noon and night.

Not that every recipe has a branded ingredient but if you want to make that bowl of Southwest Vegetarian Chili into "a meal," all you need to do is add some Special K Multi-Grain Crackers to chow down with some yoghurt and iced tea.

Weight loss, of course, comes down to one very simple principle: You need to expend more calories than you take in. Kansas State University professor Mark Haub, whose field is human nutrition, demonstrated this when he lost 27 pounds over two months on a "convenience store" diet that mostly consisted of eating Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos and the like. (In front of his family, however, he primarily ate veggies to set a good example.)

Haub was out to prove a couple of points. One is that portion control is the key to losing weight. Another is that people may be more likely to comply with a diet when they're able to eat foods they crave. Haub's earlier attempt to limit himself to just whole grains, dietary fiber, berries, bananas and vegetables and an occasional treat did not succeed.

"It's unrealistic to expect people to totally drop these foods for vegetables and fruits," Haub told CNN. "It may be healthy, but not realistic."

Finally, William Neuman writes in the New York Times this morning that Save the Children has pulled its support of a soda tax to battle childhood obesity. He suggests -- and Save the Children denies -- that existing and potential grants from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo to the organization may have something to do with the decision.

We will save the debate over the merits and demerits of a tax on sweet beverages to key in on the food industries counterpoint. "The soda companies argue that it is unfair to blame their products for the obesity epidemic, which has complex causes," Newman writes. "They say that policies should be focused instead on getting people to exercise more."

That is true. But they'd probably be wise at this point to start talking about portion control, too. The strategy is serving Kellogg well.

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