The ultimate aim of any brand is to become a household name. Over the years, some of the brands that have reached this status include Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson, and General Mills. While many people may not consider General Mills a household name, the company crafted many brands which are. General Mills is the proud owner of brands like Wheaties, Lucky Charm, Cheerios, and Yoplait.
But how did this brand achieve such a feat? General Mills spent the past few decades taking every major opportunity for product placement and riding the waves of pop culture. So here’s a brief overview of how General Mills became the household name it is today.
How many brands do you know have had cameo appearances on shows? Well, General Mills’ Betty Crocker certainly has. Way back in the 1950s, when Gracie Allen suffered difficulties with baking a cake on The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show Betty Crocker offered her assistance to get the job done right.
There was also a Betty Crocker radio show for more than a quarter of a century before the brand branched into television. The televised Betty Crocker was played by actress Adelaide Hawley.
But Betty Crocker didn’t just appear onscreen; she also worked behind the scenes to help mothers and housewives with their most burning questions about cooking. From as early as the late 1800s to the early 1900s Betty Crocker released cookbook after cookbook with great recipe ideas and helped many a housewife overcome obstacles they faced with perfecting dishes in the kitchen. This helped build a reliable image of the brand.
Though Betty Crocker is certainly one of General Mills’ most memorable characters, she’s not the most entertaining. That title goes to characters like the Silly Rabbit from the Trix ads, and the Pillsbury Doughboy with his unforgettable giggle every time he was poked in the tummy. These memorable characters became a lasting part of pop culture and even found their way into rap music and comedy.
The company has also sponsored shows like the Lone Ranger back in the early 1940s to late 1950s. Because of General Mills’ ties to the show, the Lone Ranger gave the brand many honorable mentions. Children were also encouraged to take advantage of promotional items from the show so they could play cowboys and Indians at home, courtesy of General Mills.
In addition, General Mills sponsored other children’s shows and cartoons like The Bullwinkle Show and Rocky and his Friends.
Basically, General Mills harnessed all the benefits of content creation and content marketing long before content marketing became king. The brand has done this so well over the years that it gets free help from time to time.
For instance, on a recently-aired episode of the Late Show, Stephen Colbert mixed his Lucky Charms with some Bailey’s Irish Cream. His guest, Tom Hanks, then asked for a bowl of his own, while noting that this didn’t exactly count as a ‘breakfast for champions.’ which is a throwback to the Wheaties slogan.
General Mills confirmed they had nothing to do with their placement on the show but was happy that Colbert had seen fit to include them. It was all the great reward of good content-marketing karma the company has sent around for more than a century and a half. Kudos to them.