Like other FMCG products, changing consumer preferences have impacted Kellogg’s brands, most notably its breakfast cereals. Whether it’s consumers preferring hot foods over cold ones or simply wanting healthier food choices, habits are changing. On top of that, Asia's needs are particularly diverse. As a result, Kellogg has evolved its products and its marketing significantly over the past two years.
“It’s now all about agile and hyper marketing that is real-time, and our consumer range has expanded and is growing,” Nadeem Amin, regional digital marketing manager at Kellogg Asia-Pacific, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.
At the same time, the company has consciously moved away from "ideal-based marketing", according to Beau Dunn, regional digital marketing IT lead. "It’s not about showing perfect people holding Kellogg’s products," he said. "Through digital, social and video, we want to give consumers the kinds of messages that will get them interested in learning about who they are and how they can better themselves.”
Despite its rapid evolution, Amin believes the digital team’s goal remains clear: deliver consistent and effective trade and shopper marketing across Asia-Pacific. “We also don’t do marketing for the sake of marketing,” he added.
When it comes to addressing the overall declining breakfast cereal category, Kellogg’s strategy is to adapt, using its diversified product portfolio and examining how products can extend to other areas of consumers’ consumption habits.
The degree of difficulty for that feat is high in Asia, as different markets react to products differently. "In Australia our Special K product is very popular, but in India, Oats and Granola is successful," Amin said. “We are also looking at how consumers can use cereals with other recipes and foods like yoghurt, for example, and combine things in creative ways.”
To respond to such signals requires listening and looking at which products work in what markets and why, according to Amin. “We don’t have an elaborate setting like a command centre, but we have the same framework that allows us to listen, manage and plan for digital and social media,” he said. “We work very closely with our agency partners to execute.”
Content marketing plays an important role in delivering on Kellogg's strategy online. According to Dunn, a lack of knowledge is one factor that has contributed to the decline in the popularity of cereals.
“A lot of people think cereal is full of sugar and not healthy,” said Dunn. “Sure, we have products that are health-focused and contain less sugar, but even our more sugary products have a place in the overall dietary scheme of things.”
For example, Dunn said, Coco Pops and Fruit Loops could be an occasional snack for kids after school when they’re feeling tired and need an energy boost.
“We are creating a lot of social posts, content and sites to help educate people on different kinds of health choices and food types relating to our product range,” said Dunn. “We also create different content depending on who the audience is.”
Broadly speaking, Dunn said Kellogg’s has two main audiences for its content: day-to-day consumers and healthcare experts and influencers that are impacting public opinion about what is healthy and what isn’t.
“To healthcare professionals, we have a dedicated portal that is backed by science because we know they take it seriously,” said Dunn. “To consumers, the content is more social and lifestyle-driven and we have interactive websites with videos and various other things.”
Amin said Kellogg has also been re-envisioning its brands to make them more customer-centric. Nutri-Grain is one such attempt. Building on its longtime “Ironman” image, Nutri-Grain sought to humanise its brand last year in “Unstoppable”, a campaign that looked at modern Australians through a realistic yet stylised lens—and was driven by “content-heavy marketing”.
“We learnt a lot more than we expected, especially the benefits of communicating at a human level,” said Amin. “Speaking the consumer’s language and featuring people in the campaign that aren’t made up was a positive thing for us as a brand and the results on social media were good.”
While Amin admits this approach isn’t suitable for every product, he said the digital marketing team is looking into how these learnings can be applied to Kellogg’s other brands and social activations.
Kellogg uses Adobe Experience Manager as a content management system and Salesforce to drive its social media marketing. Digital activities range from “basic to high level”, and the brand has a number of consumer-facing websites. It also runs campaigns and promotions across its brands on a monthly basis.
However, Amin said that the biggest area of learning recently has been applying concepts from ecommerce.
“Not full-fledged ecommerce because we are not an ecommerce business and we don’t sell directly to the consumers,” said Amin. “But we’ve been interested in how we can simplify our UX for path to purchase.”
Dunn added that there are good examples from Kellogg in the US that the team is looking to bring to Asia. “The first step in Asia-Pacific will be to better link our properties to retailers through easy, 'buy now' buttons,” added Amin.
The company is exploring the idea of a special shopping cart that would allow buyers to shop on Kellogg's sites but make purchases from retailers more easily, which could be achieved through APIs.
“I think inherently, Kellogg’s global, including myself and Beau [Dunn], love technology," Amin said. "It’s built on how we work as company and we want to use it to create a more seamless customer experience."
That said, love of tech isn't enough to tie together the company’s broad and varied digital marketing activities in the region, which involve many stakeholders and require local expertise and executions.
This is where VML, appointed In December as Kellogg’s Asia-Pacific regional marketing technology partner (press release), comes in.
The appointment saw the agency’s role expand beyond Australia and North America to additionally cover digital marketing technology for Kellogg across Asia Pacific plus South Africa.
Aden Hepburn, managing director and executive creative director of VML Australia, oversees VML’s work for Kellogg in Asia-Pacific from Sydney. He works with multiple teams in the region and crucially, VML Singapore, one of the agency’s hubs for the project.
“Kellogg’s snack business, including brands like Pringles come out of Singapore, Hepburn said. "We also have a lot of great talent there that know the markets. He describes VML’s role as being the “digital glue” for the technical side of Kellogg’s digital marketing operations in the region.
“Working with multiple agencies in multiple countries, you can easily end up with all this different code and forms, and things get messy,” Hepburn added. “VML has to be the guardian of this for Kellogg.”
He added that VML’s job is to also help create and deliver the “best-in-class digital marketing across the board”, covering everything from product launches to bespoke mobile campaigns to apps for Kellogg markets.
“As an example, we might be working with a creative ‘above-the-line’ agency in one of the markets that has a great idea but not the digital expertise,” said Hepburn. “We will help supply the technical power to do it through our supportive regional hub.”
Amin said VML is in a unique position to develop and shape both Kellogg’s digital strategy and technical development.
“From their perspective, they will need to provide technical ideas and solution to things,” said Dunn. “All the important things like, is it feasible? Is it in the right direction? Are there things that can be done better?”
Although the last two years have brought big changes for Kellogg, more change is yet to come. “2016 is going to be a big year for VML and Kellogg's,” said Hepburn. “Come back to us in 10 months and we’ll have lots to talk about.”