Let’s take a walk down memory lane, thanks to Asheville, North Carolina, writer Barry Silverstein. Like most of us, he has fond memories of Saturday morning television when he was growing up. But not just the shows; the ads too. As he puts it, they were for brands that baby boomers came to know and love. Now Barry has written a book with stories about more than fifty iconic brands of our era. He takes a look at how TV influenced brand advertising, and how these brands shaped our childhoods … and continue to impact our lives today. Here’s an excerpt.
How did cereal brands come to bowl us over during the Boomer era and represent the very heart and soul of the Baby Boomer generation? You can pin that on the brothers Kellogg of Battle Creek, Michigan. John Harvey Kellogg teamed up with brother William and together, they invented Kellogg’s Corn Flakes. William bought John’s share of their cereal patents and went on to form the Kellogg Company in 1906. Less than three years later, Kellogg was selling more than a million cases of cereal annually.
Around the same time, Charles William Post got wind of this cereal thing. He created a cereal called Grape-Nuts, followed by Post Toasties (a Kellogg’s Corn Flakes knock-off). Guess what? These two products launched the Postum Cereal Company, better known as Post Cereals, a cereal manufacturer that also made its home in Battle Creek.
In the first four decades of the 1900s, the Quaker Oats Company created Puffed Rice and Puffed Wheat, the Washburn Crosby Company (which later became General Mills) produced Wheaties, the Ralston Purina Company came out with Shredded Ralston (the forerunner of the Chex brand), and General Mills introduced Cheerios, originally known as “CheeriOats.” All along, Kellogg was expanding its cereal line, adding such brands as Kellogg’s Rice Krispies.
Cereal would become permanently embedded in our lives as the leading American breakfast food.
Why We Loved Cereals
You might say everything changed in the cereal world with the addition of one essential ingredient: Sugar. Oh, and there was another key “ingredient”… you and me, the Baby Boomer kids, who craved sugar.
In 1952, when the first Boomer was around six years old, Kellogg’s Sugar Frosted Flakes hit the grocery store shelves. This cereal was really nothing more than the company’s flagship Kellogg’s Corn Flakes brand with a sugary sheen. That sweet little product introduction dovetailed very nicely with the advent of television.
Millions of little Boomers became a very attractive target audience for children’s television programs – and what better product to pitch to kids than breakfast cereals?
A lot of children’s television programming took advantage of the affection kids had for comic books and cartoons. It was a natural fit for cereal manufacturers, who shamelessly promoted their brands directly to us kids. The manufacturers advertised primarily on children’s television shows and often employed animated mascots and cartoon character tie-ins. TV and cereal went together like, well, cereal and milk.
From the very start, cereal manufacturers were brilliant at branding and packaging, reaching their zenith during the Boomer era. Not only did they come up with catchy brand names, cartoon mascots, colorful boxes, and promotional gimmicks – they even gave us unlimited choices by producing those cute little single-serving packages. (Mom or Dad had to cut the thing open, but remember the thrill of pouring milk right into the box?)
Let’s face it. We loved cereal. We still love cereal. And cereal remains the top food group for Boomers.
Copyright 2019 by Barry Silverstein
Barry’s book is “Boomer Brands: Iconic Brands That Shaped Our Childhood.”