At a certain point while running our consulting practice, we took time off to test some pretty unconventional ideas we had about new venture building and brand development, under our own stewardship. We decided to focus on cereal as the category, given the fact that 95% of the American public enjoyed it. That kind of ubiquity made it an excellent category to test our ideas and learn how they would play out with the broadest cross-section of consumers.
Cereality Cereal Bar & Café was a start-up chain of cafes and kiosks that featured 40 types of familiar brand-name cereals, 40 types of toppings or mix-ins, up to seven types of milk, and a wide variety of freshly prepared hot cereals. It also had a number of other offerings, all of which included cereal and all of which were geared to all-day dining.
Our primary mission was to validate the idea that you could sell the most common type of packaged food in a food service establishment if you focused on a highly branded experience, rather than the product mix. We set out to prove that on or near college campuses, in business districts, and at airports and other transportation hubs. We got that proof. As a matter of fact, we even won the coveted “Experience Stager of the Year” Award from the authors of The Experience Economy.
In launching the business, we were very fortunate to secure non-equity start-up funding from PepsiCo’s Quaker Foods division by providing them with proprietary data and limited category exclusivity. At the time Cereality was acquired—four years after we opened our first unit—we had seven company-owned units in operation in various cities and settings, 26 franchise units under contract, and more than 8,000 franchise applications on file. Those were the tangible assets.
But the company’s intangible brand assets were what helped it secure its most significant revenues—from product development and licensing deals with companies such as Mars, Old Navy, Dodge and Dreamworks. The most potent of those assets was Cereality’s trademarked value proposition: “Where it’s always Saturday morning.”
The remarkable learnings we gained from that “sandbox” experience have certainly enhanced our perspectives and insights on branding. They’ve also helped us truly identify with what our clients wrestle with as company founders, leaders and innovators, striving every day to make their own very big marks.
VIEW print media (in a new window).
Restaurants and Institutions (July 2007)
Chicago Sun Times (January 2007, July 2007)
Associated Press (May 2006)
Fast Company (December 2006)
Brandweek (May 2006)
Newsweek (June 2005, April 2007)
The New York Times (November 2004)
People (November 2004)
TIME (November 2004, June 2006)
Business 2.0 (October 2004)
Fortune Small Business (October 2004)
Business Week (June 2004)
Nation's Restaurant News (May 2004)
Entrepreneur (May 2004 and March 2005)
USA Today (May 2004)
BBC Radio (March 2006)
National Public Radio:
“The Splendid Table” (2005)
“Day to Day” (2004)
“Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me” (2004)
“The Motley Fool” (2004)
CNBC The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch (December 2006)
CBC "Venture" Canada (2006)
Food Network: “Unwrapped” “Secret Life Of” “Roker on the Road”
CNN News Night with Aaron Brown (August 2005)
CBS Early Show (November 2004)
The TODAY Show (November 2004)
SELECTED TRADE AND TEXTBOOK COVERAGE
“See Reality” by David Roth, in Chicken Soup for the Entrepreneur's Soul
Designing Brand Identity, 2nd and 3rd Editions, by Alina Wheeler
The Big Idea by Donny Deutsch
What to Eat by Marion Nestle
Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want by James H. Gilmore, B. Joseph Pine
Business Strategy Pathfinder by Duncan Angwin, Stephen Cummings, Chris Smith
Product Strategy and Management by Michael John Baker, Susan J. Hart
The Breakfast Cereal Gourmet by David Hoffman
Hospitality Strategic Management: Concepts and Cases by Cathy A. Enz
Foundations of Economics by Andrew Gillespie
Be Incredibly Healthy: 52 Brilliant Little Ideas to Look and Feel Fantastic
by Kate Cook, Sally Brown
Foundations of Marketing, 2nd Edition, by William M. Pride, O. C. Ferrell