When we helped Cheerios launch their Facebook page in 2009, the goal was to make it more than just another place to advertise cereal. We wanted it to be a community where young moms could connect with one another to share advice on parenting, nutrition and Cheerios-related topics. We had done a lot of research on how social media was changing the climate of interactions between brands and consumers, and we understood that it wasn’t another channel, but a multiplier of the efforts you already have in place. Smart use of social media lets you leverage your community to participate in developing and testing your ads, as well as finding brand advocates that can contribute sincere testimony to your message. At the core of our strategy is the belief in spotlighting fan content to create peer influence. Social media isn’t about brands talking to consumers. Instead it’s about gathering consumer insight and wisdom and creating content that reflects their views. So is it working? According to a recent Nielson study, Cheerios community-optimized ad campaign got the highest ratings they have ever seen from a CPG brand on Facebook. Here is a look into the efforts that have helped Cheerios move up the charts.
The Community Makes the Message
To launch their Facebook page, the Cheerios team wanted to concentrate on their commitment to reading and kids through their Spoonfuls of Stories program. As a natural extension, we began asking fans to submit their best tips for reading with their children. The response we received was overwhelmingly great. From their solid advice we were able to create a slideshow featuring fan pictures and nuggets of wisdom, which we released back to our community. It was so successful that we used this model again for Mother’s Day. We asked fans to submit the best things they learned from their mothers or from being mothers themselves. The tips were heartwarming, and we paired them with photos and released them as a video once again. After receiving 360k impressions and earning the page several gushing fans, community-generated content had proven its worth.
Since then, our approach has gained its own structure in a process we call Cheerios IQ. Named after the collective intelligence of the Cheerios social community, it is a system of biweekly research and content-creation that allows us to constantly learn and grow in our efforts. We start by monitoring social media and the web, collecting both data and organically created Cheerios content. Then we curate a report and meet with the brand team to brainstorm content to release, analyzing what resonated with the community and what didn’t. With this system, we have the ability to test new ideas and learn from our community within a short time frame. From these brainstorms, we develop larger creative projects called Mom IQ pieces. These give us the chance to collaborate with our fans beyond the average Facebook experience and work with some of the hottest designers and bloggers in the country.
Mom IQ #1 – The Cheerios Eat & Greet
Our first Mom IQ piece came from our observation that the Facebook community loved recipes. We decided to take their love of baking with Cheerios and turn it into an opportunity to meet some of our active community members face to face. We came up with the idea of a Cheerios Eat & Greet, where local fans and their kids could join us in General Mills’ Betty Crocker test kitchens to bake and try the recipes firsthand. First we invited the community to submit recipes and had our Facebook community choose their five favorites. We took these fan-created and selected favorites to the Eat & Greet for a taste test. We hired a professional photographer to document the event and shared the album on Facebook. Once the event was over, we still had even more content to give to our fans. We shared the taste-test winners, professional recipe cards and photos from the day. Not only did we get to meet our customers and gain a combined 1 million impressions from our Facebook community, but we managed to do so with a budget under 8k.
Cheerios Play Coupons
Our second Mom IQ piece was inspired by a popular topic in the media: The decline of creativity among kids today. We thought this topic may resonate with our fans so we asked what they did to keep their kids’ creativity in motion, and we got a wealth of responses. Since our fans felt so passionate about this topic, we decided to inspire more creative play by releasing Cheerios Play Coupons. Parents can print out and share the activities with their kids, to be redeemed as needed. We hired illustrator Allison Newhouse to illustrate our ideas, which included everything from creating a time capsule to painting with your toes.
Made by Joel
Still feeling the fans’ interest in the decline of creative play, we decided to do more for moms energized by the topic. During this time, we also noticed that fans responded with excitement every time we posted ideas for re-using a cereal box in a creative way. We originally discovered the popular craft blogger Joel Henriques, of Made by Joel, from our Cheerios IQ report but we didn’t know if he had ever worked with a big brand before. We approached him with the idea of creating Cheerios box-centric crafts, and he was very enthusiastic. He presented several ideas, and the brand particularly liked a portable box dollhouse and a rubber band guitar. We also suggested an on-the-go snack container after noticing how taking food on the go was a popular subject with our community. He ended up going beyond just a post and actually making instructional videos for each project. Not only did we get to create fun content for our fans, but we got to connect with Joel’s community as well.
Inspired by fans’ love of sharing photos on Cheerios’ Facebook page, we created the concept of a Cheeriosaic. It took their photos to a new, artistic and even more shareable level by letting fans turn them into abstract art. All they have to do is a choose a photo and watch it transform into a mosaic of Cheerios over a pile of spilled milk. At the end, it shows how many of each variety of Cheerios it used, which, aside from being fun, also exposes them to Cheerios brands they might not have even known existed. The development was done by local interactive brand Puny Entertainment, who also worked with Zeus Jones to create an animation for our Holiday Bus Drive.
Cheerios Valentine’s Day
Celebrating Valentine’s Day is a tradition in many classrooms. Kids create their own boxes where they’ll receive cartoon-filled cards and candy and work on messages for their friends. We thought Cheerios was ideally suited to help by creating a cost-effective way for moms to create a Valentine’s mailbox from a Cheerios box and provide stylish, fun valentines their kids can bring to school. We hired local designer Zara Gonzalez to create two Valentine mailbox designs and a set of animal-themed cards to share with our fans.
Our community of 400k fans has given us leverage to create some amazing partnerships. Storybird is a collaborative storytelling platform that allows novices to create beautifully designed children’s story books. Still in beta mode, Storybird was new enough that not a lot of people knew about it, but sophisticated enough to provide a gorgeous interface and a wealth of images. The folks at Storybird were excited to collaborate with Cheerios’ Spoonful of Stories mission, so we got to work developing a contest. Together, we decided to give our fans something fun to participate in by sponsoring the Storybird Challenge, a three-month contest that challenged participants to write stories based on the themes of exploration, discovery and imagination. To give back to the community, we teamed up with national illustrator Ty Wilkins to create a custom set of Cheerios-branded illustrations to contribute to the Storybird library. We were able to share these submissions back with our Facebook community, and encourage them to participate as well. The stories were reviewed by a panel of literary judges, and the winners received a selection of several prizes, with an e-reader for first place. After three months, the challenge received 1,300 entries, collect 29k reads, and gave us the ability to share several amazing stories with fans.
Scaling the Message
We had observed that lots of bloggers were already talking about Cheerios, with several popular mommy blogs even incorporating them into their blog name or background image. We decided to reach out to this community in two ways. First, we hand-selected 31 popular bloggers based on their writing skills, creativity and use of sophisticated visuals. Then we connected with several “rock star” mom video-bloggers to reach moms on another medium. We came up with the question “How do you spend quality time with your child to nourish their body and mind?” and presented the question to the bloggers as well as our Facebook community. As a result, we created several new content pieces to share with our fans and use for advertising. This was also when we executed our first ad buy. Going with our belief in using community-created content and testing within that base, we presented several ideas to our Facebook fans and let them choose which ad resonated with them best.
There are several more content pieces to come, but here are the current results: a combined 1.3 billion impressions, a $0.63 CPM, over 400k fans, mentions in AdAge Digital, a new relevance in niche communities and several bloggers/news articles praising our efforts.