Special K Inspires With 'Gain By Losing' Theme

Special K ChallengeThis new year, Special K is putting its familiar, two-week weight-loss challenge in a new, longer-term context via a campaign themed "What Will You Gain When You Lose?"


The Special K Challenge's fundamentals are the same, but the campaign encourages women to focus on the lasting emotional benefits of shedding extra weight -- more self-confidence, courage, pride in themselves, etc. -- rather than fixating primarily on the numbers on their scales.

  "The Special K Challenge provides the kick-start that women are looking for in January, but this campaign's approach recognizes that for most women -- and men, for that matter -- weight loss and maintenance are a 24/7 journey," explains Mylene Pollock, creative director for Special K at the Leo Burnett agency. "Shifting the focus to how you want to feel provides the ongoing, positive motivation to take the longer view, including getting back on track when those inevitable missteps occur."



All of the campaign's efforts, which span traditional and digital media, seek in one way or another to help women envision and put their desired emotional benefits into words, gain inspiration from others' goals and stories, and benefit from community support and Special K's tools.

Special K Scale

Take, for example, an interactive kick-off event scheduled for Jan. 3 in New York's Times Square. Consumers will be invited to step onto a larger-than-life scale and have their reactions projected on a large screen in that oh-so-public venue. Those gutsy (or masochistic) enough to do so will be no doubt pleasantly surprised to see that, instead of their weights, the scale will display a word or phrase capturing an emotional benefit of achieving their weight-loss goals.

"Instead of being possibly the worst moment of the year -- that moment we all dread, of stepping on a scale after indulging in all of those food rituals that stretch from Halloween through Jan. 1 -- people will see a motivational message instead of a number," says Pollock. "Breaking the tension with that surprise and showing participants' reactions should provide an inspirational moment or story for others who are watching, as well." (Similar events will be held in Chicago's Union Station on Jan. 11 and The Grove in Los Angeles on Jan. 18.)

Some of the Times Square event moments will be used in a TV commercial that will begin airing soon after Jan. 3. In the meantime, starting this week, a spot featuring video that was shot during a smaller step-on-the scale event staged in Central Park in late November is already on-air -- along with a second new spot that's more reminiscent of Special K's traditional creative approach. (The latter shows a woman in a red coat having one of those Special K moments: being mistaken for Santa by the reindeer that have just landed on her front lawn.)

The 30-second spots will be broadcast during a range of daytime programming (including "General Hospital") and prime-time shows (including "The Biggest Loser"). One major element is a Special K sponsorship of the January launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), which includes both traditional commercial airings and sponsorship units tied in with various programming. Watching Oprah's personal dream of having her own television network become a reality synchs nicely with Special K's message of envisioning and realizing personal weight-loss/emotional goals, notes Pollock.

Print ads will run in cooking, entertainment, fitness and more general women's magazines. In some cases, through partnerships with the publishers, the ads' content will synch with the theme of the articles in which they are placed (exercise-related copy included in an ad placed within an article about a workout routine, for instance), according to Pollock.

Not surprisingly, given the stress on engagement and community support, online and social media components are central to the campaign.

Special K Back

One intriguing concept: Using the millions of Special K cereal packages in stores as inspirational, interactive tools. Backs of the cereal boxes currently include an empty cartoon bubble, and consumers are being encouraged to write in words conveying the emotional payoffs they will realize from sticking to their weight-loss programs.

While some might choose simply to keep the box in view on their kitchen counters for motivational purposes, they also have the option of photographing the boxes-with-words and sharing these -- along with their own photos, if desired -- in a gallery on, which is also accessible through and has its own tab on the brand's Facebook presence. Alternatively, consumers can skip the box photo and just go into the gallery area and upload a word and a photo of themselves.

Either way, the program will not only post the word and photo, but generate a customized version of an inspirational video that shows the fan and her personal word at the end, which can be saved for re-viewing when temptation strikes or motivation lags. Furthermore, some of those who choose to post on the gallery will be featured in the campaign's online ads, adding a personal/inspirational element to those efforts.

The site/Facebook features have been designed to make them portals that enable users to engage at their own desired levels, notes Pollock. They can opt just to read others' stories and postings, or join in on the conversation/community, post their own videos, or download coupons (currently, a buy-one-box, get-one-free coupon for Special K cereal is being offered, for example).

Notably, the tools/engagement opportunities offered include a free mobile app called myPlan, which puts recipes and tips, plus a shopping list capability and personalized two-week weight-management plan, in the user's hands for on-the-go access. The app (downloadable in versions compatible with Apple and Android devices), can be used to track weight-loss progress and earn "achievements" that can then be shared with friends on Facebook. The two-week planner can be used at any time, not just during the Challenge period.

The app's recipes are particularly important in helping to make it clear that the Special K Challenge and Special K products are intended to be part of a commitment to eating healthy, "real" foods like fruits and vegetables to enable weight loss and maintenance -- not just a short-term, quickly abandoned diet resolution, explains Pollock.

Twenty-ten saw the brand focus on adding higher-fiber content to its cereals (its bars and shakes already delivered high fiber levels), and 2011 will see new additions to the rapidly growing product line. These will include a dark-chocolate shake variety and a multigrain product, reports Pollock. The latter -- Special K Multigrain Oats & Honey cereal -- is already being promoted on the brand's Web site as "coming soon."

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