Some bright spark came up with the idea. We all read about the ironic trend that turned breakfast cereal into a hipster treat and chances are you saw the pictures of Gary and Alan Keery, the photogenic chuckle brothers, who opened the Cereal Killer Cafe on London’s hip Brick Lane. We now also know that those bowls of puffs, pops, flakes and crunchies we woke up to every morning in the 70s, 80s and 90s were poisoning us of course, but those of us who ventured to the CKC were happy to overlook all that to become children once again. Children with bushy beards, that is.
This is not good news for cereal manufacturers and with sales in steep decline the boardroom at Kellogg’s must have been thick with anxiety. Until that is the bright spark piped up with an idea. Maybe, just maybe he stuttered, Kellogg’s could copy the Leery boys and make cereal cool again?
It probably took a good year to launch Kellogg’s NYC in Times Square so, naturally, I was eager to check it out. It must at least be fun, whacky even…you know how over excited big corporations get with the whole pop up thing.
Sweet Jesus it is piss-poor. It looks like it was built by Snap, Crackle and Pop Associates with a design that’s more prison canteen than concept restaurant. In fact, there is no concept here at all. The logo is painted on the white brick wall in a kind of cornflake beige, with the only colour coming from a row of red, numbered, cubby holes where you collect your bowl at the sound of a buzzer. At the counter the prison vibe continues: on thick aluminium trays, four mock up meals, designed by Momofuku Milk Bar’s Christina Tosi, look so unappetising even Ivan Denisovich would have second thoughts. This place is not just miserable it actually haemorrhages any positive energy there is in there straight back out onto Times Square. And there’s not much: a few lonely souls sup from spoons with their heads bowed low, presumably wondering what they had done to deserve such punishment.
But just imagine what could have been achieved here. Kellogg’s is steeped in a rich, kitsch visual heritage that stretches from Tony the Tiger, Coco the Monkey and The Flintstones through to the iconography of the Corn Flakes packs and Special K logos. Remember the excitement we felt when those assortment fun packs were presented at the breakfast table on special holidays? That’s what Kellogg’s could have recreated at this pop up, but instead they thought eating cereal during the day was ironic enough. Oh dear, oh dear.
The result is a concept, with good intent and considerable investment, that has stripped Kellogg’s of any residue goodwill it might have had left over from its glory years. This place is like watching your depressed uncle pretending to enjoy a kid’s party when you know he just wants to go upstairs and hang himself.
But enough of all this, let’s be helpful. Here are a few tips for next time:
1. Momofuku Milk Bar link up. A terrific brand but no one on Times Square has heard of it. It may have street-cred but not on 42nd Street.
2. Design. Well, there isn’t any. Snap, Crackle and Pop Associates clearly didn’t turn up. Pick a proper creative agency that’s in tune with your bold and colourful heritage.
3. Think big. Understand where the beauty and energy of your brand really lies and have fun with it. Just imagine what Warhol or Koons would have done. You could even afford the latter, although I realise the former is unavailable.
4. Aim for PR shock waves rather than footfall. If you don’t believe me ask Prada. Everyone heard about the Prada store in the Texas desert. Number of visitors? Half a dozen. And that includes the photographer.
5. Next time ask me. I’ll find you the cleverest, most creative guys in the retail business and together we’ll build you a concept that gives you heaped dessert spoons of cool.
Thanks for listening. Now pass the toast.