General Mills eschews marketing norms in a bid to make its brands ‘ageless’

Hamburger Helper

A rap album and a dried pasta product aimed at mums might sound like a bizarre combination but at General Mills taking an "ageless" approach to its marketing sent sales of its Hamburger Helper brand up by 30 per cent.

The maker of Lucky Charms and Yoplait is shunning the norms of targeting demographics of consumers in favour of heroing passions, whether that be music or sport, to better “humanise” its brand and embrace the creative idea over data driven marketing.

The US-based company created an entire rap album for its Hamburger Helper brand in April, with tracks named ‘Watch the Stove’ and ‘Feed the Streets’ after initially joking about it around the time rapper Drake announced his imminent album launch. It’s a ballsy move for a traditional food company and one indicative of changing attitudes to stereotypes in marketing - see Unilever's latest announcement for proof.

Speaking to The Drum, chief creative officer at General Mills, Michael Fanuele, who joined 18 months ago, explained that one of the main drivers of being attracted to a brand is passion and explained how marketing at the company is changing to reflect this.

“I’ve come to believe that people love brands for the same reason they love people, because they are funny, or smart, or helpful, or curious, or interesting. But one of the main drivers of attraction is passion. When someone expresses a passion for something it is really attractive and that holds true for brands. When brands express their passion for sport, people who love it respond in kind. There is a simple human alchemy that occurs when brands express their passion, people become passionate about those things in kind.

“One of the powerful things that happened at General Mills over the past year and a half is we that we have committed ourselves to being a food company, and food needs to show up differently in the world of marketing and communications. It’s not hyper rational financial services, it’s the stuff moms give you or what chefs give you and so there needs to be humanity behind that.”

General Mills is also working closely with Snapchat to reach consumers and is “excited” about the breadth of its audience in terms of taking an age agnostic approach in its communications on the platform.

“What is most exciting is that as the breadth of their audience increases, I have a very simple insight that is coming from my own reality,” chief marketing officer Ann Simonds told The Drum. “I’m a mother two children and three step children, so a blended family of five for whom Snapchat is my primary means of communicating with them and I don’t think that is a unique experience.

“So more than other social networks it is now a place where I believe generations are finding each other again and so to the whole point of being ageless on Snapchat is a chance to capitalise on that so I think that is exciting.”

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