(Bloomberg) -- Kellogg Co., struggling with a moribund cereal business, is looking to dads to help boost one of its top brands.
The largest U.S. cereal maker is rolling out a new campaign for Frosted Flakes aimed directly at fathers, rather than the moms that typically make shopping decisions. The company also is targeting “tweens,” a group it pegs at 9 to 14, which might not be familiar with its longtime mascot. As part of the pitch, Kellogg has a new animatronic Tony the Tiger -- developed with help from Jim Henson’s Creature Shop -- that’s making its debut Thursday in New York.
Kellogg faces an uphill battle in trying to make Frosted Flakes relevant again. The company is mired in an industrywide slump for the one-time breakfast favorite, now perceived as too processed and sugary. The new lifesize Tony the Tiger, which can engage in conversation and requires a three-person team to operate, will have a prominent role in a new social-media marketing campaign.
The idea is to tap into the nostalgia of dads who know the character from childhood, said Christie Crouch, associate marketing director for Frosted Flakes. The company also wants to introduce younger customers to the “newly relevant” Tony the Tiger and his “They’re GR-R-REAT” slogan -- updated for 2016 with the Twitter hashtag “#LetYourGreatOut.”
“He hasn’t been quite as present in tween culture,” Crouch said. “That’s contributed to tweens being less aware of Tony over time.”
Kellogg’s marketing push also features another personality who will be well-known to cereal-eating dads: Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played Carlton Banks on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”
Kellogg is turning to more creative tactics after years of sluggish demand, particularly in its key U.S. morning-foods division. U.S. cereal sales started falling in 2013 and are expected to continue dropping through at least 2020, according to Euromonitor International. That’s forced Kellogg and General Mills Inc., its chief cereal rival, to battle for market share.
Frosted Flakes, second only to Special K in the Kellogg portfolio, has seen sales drop each of the past two years. The new marketing campaign comes on the heels of Kellogg opening a cereal cafe in Times Square to showcase chef-created recipes, an attempt to gain some foodie cachet.
General Mills has worked to boost sales by adding gluten-free Cheerios and removing artificial colors and ingredients from products such as Trix and Reese’s Puffs. For its part, Kellogg has said that 75 percent of its cereals in North America are made without artificial colors, while more than half are produced without artificial flavors. The company has vowed to rid the ingredients from its cereals and snack bars by the end 2018.
In the four-week period that ended Aug. 28, U.S. cereal sales fell 0.9 percent, according to Chris Growe, analyst at Stifel Financial Group. But there was positive news for Kellogg: It gained market share for the third straight month, he said.
Crouch said the sales gain started after the company launched new ads touting Frosted Flakes in late July, the first piece in a multipronged strategy that includes the real-life Tony the Tiger.
“We know that dad and tweens have a lot of influence on what makes it onto mom’s shopping list,” Crouch said. “When they love a brand, they make that request.”