Tony Gets Makeover For Live Gigs, Looks Gr-r-eat!

Befitting his strategic role in the latest Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes campaign, Tony the Tiger has been given a makeover for purposes of his live appearances.

The iconic character sported a new animatronic suit created by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop — gear that allows him to talk, sing and move more naturally as he interacts with his fans out in the real world — in a press event held this morning in New York City (above). The event was also live-streamed on the brand’s Facebook channel. 

Tony was accompanied by actor/TV host Alfonso Ribeiro (“America’s Funniest Home Videos”), who was tapped to help with the official kickoff of the brand’s “Let Your Gr-r-reat Out” campaign.

The campaign, from Edelman's Krispr division and Leo Burnett, continues the emphasis on kids and dads seen in Burnett’s “Share What You Love” campaign, which had been running since 2010 — but with an updated strategy focused on tweens. 



The new campaign reflects an insight that tweens often doubt themselves and may need encouragement to display their abilities, show who they are and achieve their goals. Or in brand speak, “let their great out.” 

Frosted Flakes and Tony are being positioned as catalysts to help motivate tweens to try things and express themselves — in part by encouraging dads to encourage their kids to do so. 

To introduce this premise as kids go back to school, the marketing team is employing the results of a survey conducted among dads and tweens in August. 

During the press event, Ribeiro shared an anecdote about supporting his own 13-year-old daughter as she struggled with ambivalence about her gymnastic abilities. Then he shared survey stats such as: 90% of tweens “think that they’re great,” yet four out of 10 often hold off from expressing their greatness; 70% wish they had more opportunities to share with others what makes them great; and 62% say they’d be more likely to do such sharing if they had more encouragement. Dads surveyed confirmed that they want their tweens to have such opportunities, as well as their desire to connect more with their tweens.

During the event, “Tony” noted that he and Ribeiro will be posting about the “LYGO” theme on Frosted Flakes’s social channels (Facebook, Twitter) over the next few weeks, and encouraged tweens and dads to interact using #LetYourGreatOut.

He also mentioned his appearance in the brand’s new “LYGO” commercial. That TV spot (below), which actually began airing in mid-July, shows Tony interacting with a tween girl, who is then shown actively enjoying herself at a skate park -- in her wheelchair. 

The campaign will also include new digital content and ads for display and mobile, reports Christie Crouch, associate director, brand marketing for Kellogg.

Tony has been making live and advertising appearances for may years as part of the brand’s parallel, ongoing marketing tied to kids’ sports (including its sponsorship of the Little League World Series in August), and he will now be evangelizing the “LYGO” mission at sports and other events. 

While there’s no campaign-specific tour planned as of now, Crouch confirms that the new-and-improved Tony will be making appearances around the country.

The character’s appearance has been changed a number of times since it was introduced as part of the cereal brand’s launch in 1951, including recent “contemporizing” for digital advertising, video and television. Upgrading the way he looks for in-person appearances and when the character is seen in costume in videos or live-streams was a logical next step.

Tony will also have a more prominent presence on redesigned packaging to debut in October, Crouch tells Marketing Daily

Frosted Flakes has been focusing on dads and kids, and now tweens in particular, because they’re core customer groups with the potential to drive more growth. 

Kids and dads consume more Frosted Flakes than other family members, according to Crouch. Still, dads — who now do an increasing amount of family food shopping — tend to eat other cereal brands more often than Frosted Flakes, according to the brand’s research. 

Also, although Frosted Flakes is already the #1 kids’ cereal (and #3 RTE cereal overall), it was time to raise Tony’s profile among tweens, who are showing declining familiarity with the character.

Frosted Flakes has seen sales softness in recent years, though it hasn’t been nearly as hard-hit as many cereal brands. (Its sales were down 4.5% in 2014, for instance, according to Consumer Edge Research.) 

The good news: In the latest four-week period — since the first “LYGO” spot began airing — the brand has seen its largest year-over-year sales growth in three years, according to Crouch. 

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