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Why Your Business Needs An Animated Character – Kellogg’s Billion Dollar Case Study

Why Your Business Needs An Animated Character – Kellogg’s Billion Dollar Case Study

Here’s a challenge for you: how would you take what could be perceived as a relatively mundane product and turn it into a necessity that countries hoard, crave and spend billions on every single year?

Before you read more, go and leave a comment below with your first, knee-jerk response to this question. We would love to hear what you would do!

Well, you’re about to meet two of the greatest Attention Hackers who ever lived, who took on that same challenge and crushed it with historic proportions, transforming a cheap commodity into a wildly popular profitable brand that penetrated deep into the psyche of the Western World.

Introducing W.K. Kellogg & Leo Burnett, Attention Hacking masters, who used animated characters to turn cereal into the biggest success story in the modern food industry. I’ll reveal to you the four psychological reasons WHY animated characters work so powerfully (and why you should use animated characters to rapidly grow YOUR BRAND), but first, the back story.


Kellogg’s Animated Characters – The Billion Dollar Case Study

When I say they tried to market a relatively mundane boring product, I mean BORING; literally. Here’s the story:

In 1894 there was an accident. A religious group in Michigan was working on a new kind of food to fit the diet advised by their church. They believed that spicy or sweet foods would ​ ‘increase passions’ so their goal was to create something made of entirely bland ingredients! – which they came to discover completely by accident. Dr. J.H. Kellogg happened to leave some cooked wheat to sit as they attended a church meeting. Upon return, he and his brother found that the wheat went stale. Trying to find a way to keep it fresh for longer, they pressed and processed that wheat. And to their surprise, the stale wheat turned into crispy flakes.

W.K. Kellogg saw this new food as an invention that should be marketed to the masses. But how? How on earth do you take bland, stale flakes and market it to the world? Well, most people would give up right then and there thinking that it’s too boring and bland, and asking themselves why anyone would want to eat this dull food? But W.K. Kellogg was a true Attention Hacker, who instilled this bland flakey food into the psyche of an entire country and beyond, to countries all over the world who continue to spend BILLIONS of dollars year after year to eat this bland, flakey food and other things like it.

W.K. Kellogg started his company in 1909 and quickly found success selling Corn Flakes and other cereals, promoting them as a “healthy alternative to bacon and eggs.” But it wasn’t until Kellogg met Leo Burnett that things really took off – because Burnett was famous for using a very unique Attention Hack: Animated Characters. Which is why Burnett told Kellogg to do something wild. Instead of marketing the cereal on TV or Radio alone – let the box itself do the marketing. Take a look for yourself to see the difference and in a moment you’ll understand the deeper psychological powers behind it…

Here are the before and after shots:

Before using an animated character:

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After using an Animated Character:

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Why Your Business Needs An Animated Character -


Why Your Business Needs An Animated Character -

While on the surface it looks like the animated characters only add some random entertainment value, there are four psychological reasons animated characters work so incredibly well to build a business and brand. In Kellogg’s case it was a move that earned the company billions of dollars.

1. THE POWER OF ASSOCIATION – Animated Characters

Our brains work by associating one thing to another. For example, when you take a shower and feel relaxed your brain associates taking a shower with feeling relaxed. Well, what if the only thing you knew about Corn Flakes was how they were made as the Ultimate Bland Food for people avoiding feeling passionate (which was the original intention). Then you’d associate “Corn Flakes” with “Bland”. Meaning, that if you want to avoid feeling ​ ‘bland’ you’ll avoid ​ ‘Corn Flakes’. No Billion Dollars there!

So what did Leo Burnett do? He created ​ ‘Cornelious’, the Corn Flakes Rooster, to associate waking up in the morning to Corn Flakes. Why is that move so genius? Because the goal is for Corn Flakes to be the choice for your breakfast in the morning. By creating a character that your mind associates with waking up happy in the morning, you now associate Corn Flakes with a happy morning.

Here’s a great example:

All of the characters on these cereals were intentionally created for your brain to have several automatic and positive associations with the cereal.

The Bee in Honey Nut Cheerios was used so that you associate joy, sweetness, and fresh honey with the cereal. Tony the Tiger (invented by Leo Burnett in 1952) was used so that you associate the power and confidence of a Tiger in a friendly way by eating the cereal. So when you eat it, you’ll be powerful, strong, and confident like a Tiger. Here’s one great example where you now associate all things victorious, strong, and confident with Frosted Flakes. Meet Tony the Tiger as the next NBA superstar:

2. THE POWER OF METAPHOR – Animated Characters

Neuroscience has shown us how our brain loves metaphors. Metaphors allow the brain to quickly and easily understand something. A study from Emory University reported that when people read a metaphor involving texture, the part of the brain responsible for noticing texture through touch (called the ​ ‘sensory cortex’) became active. Metaphors like “The singer had a velvet voice” or “He had leathery hands” roused the brain, while phrases lacking a metaphor, like “The singer had a pleasing voice” or “He had strong hands” did not.

Burnett understood this intuitively, so they went all out on their cereal boxes with Metaphors galore. Notice the amount of metaphors having quite a party on the Froot Loops box. But when you see a plain white box with black letters that only says, “Froot Loops” – your brain goes comatose. Without a beautiful, exotic, fun, happy and delicious picture being painted (i.e metaphor) your brain only sees the boring words, “Froot Loops – sweetened multi-grain cereal”.

​ Let’s go visual, and notice how this would never draw your attention:

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Whereas this piece of creative genius goes all out to grab you and your children’s attention with a playground of metaphors:

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​ There are five metaphors playing out all at once to make you think again before passing up this adventure of an eating experience:

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1. The Jungle Theme (In Blue) – making you feel like these loops of Froot are some treasure from a paradise in the pacific.

2. At Home With A Friendly Exotic Bird (White) – here’s a dramatization of the animated character. Where you’re eating the Froot from his own wild home, you’re invited to Toucan Sam’s tree-house. Home sweet home, literally!

3. Meet Toucan, Your New Best Friend (Yellow) – the happy bird from paradise, with eyes wide open, seeming to have the time of his life, makes you feel like this is some amazing adventure. In the jungle, fresh fruit, flying from a tree and happy as can be. The Animated Character plays a deeply central role to make this cereal experience personal, exciting and adventurous. When was the last time you had a bowl of fruit from paradise for breakfast? The happy bird is delivering all that goodness to you in this fun-box of Froot Loops.

4. Lively Cereal (Green) – the cereal is jumping out of that bowl. The milk looks like it’s coming from some milk-waterfall, splish-splash. This, of course, is not by accident. The intention is to create a metaphor where your brain says, “Wow that looks like fun”.

5. ​ ‘Natural’ Fruit Flavors (Orange) – the text of this is on a wooden, fruit-decorated sign that comes out of a national park. If it was in black and white or colorless or just words – it wouldn’t be a metaphor. The visual of the wooden sign supports the overall message that this is “Natural”.

All those five elements are metaphors to activate your brain on many levels. The exotic adventure you could be having, the personal friend you enjoy spending time with, the fruit from paradise and how we’re out in some natural outdoor setting. This is no accident – it’s Attention Hacking Mastery. But you know what? you’re about to see the best part of all this – where you’ll either gasp or laugh your head off (just try not to share this with your friends on Facebook, it’s so cool you’re going to LOVE it):


3. THE POWER OF ANIMATION – Animated Characters

Notice the difference between animated characters and literal characters. And you’ll understand why this is a multi-billion dollar industry. So far you’ve seen the level of thinking and Attention Hacking Mastery gone into these cereals and their boxes. But the main experience, that we didn’t realize until now, is that every single one of their characters are animated. You’ll understand why with a blink of your eye.

Here’s the animated character we love:

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But what if it wasn’t an ​ ‘Animated’ Character? What if Kelloggs went literal and chose an living Rooster to be Cornelius?

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…exactly, YIKES!

Another Animated Character we love – Tony the Tiger (and yes, he does have his own Twitter Account – @realtonytiger – not a joke):

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​ But what if Tony was a real Tiger?

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…scary man!!

I think I saved the best for last. Because on the Honey Nut Cheerios Box (General Mills), they use two Animations, Buzz The Bee (yup, he also has his own Twitter Account, @buzzthebee) and an Animated Heart:

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​ But if Honey Nut Cheerios used an actual Bee and an actual Heart, we’d all be running away, hard and fast from this bizarre looking box:

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It’s not the character – it’s the ANIMATED character that gives you this happy and personal feeling that grabs your attention and wallet. In fact, the animated character plays a huge role to create a relationship with you. Starting from childhood and going throughout your adult life:


4. THE POWER OF RELATIONSHIP – Animated Characters

The truth, as you probably know, is that the marketing of cereals is mostly targeting kids (which is why the cereal boxes are low on the shelf in supermarkets, right where children can see and take those boxes). But you and I both know how much adults love to eat cereal – any time of the day. Why? Because the bonds we make in childhood are with us for our entire life.

The cereals aren’t marketed as food – they’re marketed as a RELATIONSHIP. Think about it for a moment. Think how you felt as a kid when your parents got you a special sweet cereal on the weekend. Think about how you looked at Toucan Sam, Tony the Tiger, Buzz the Bee and Cornelius when you ate the cereal. Think how you felt when you got a special prize inside the box. Think about the games you played on the back of the box. The Attention Hacker Masters behind Kelloggs, General Mills and others were anchoring in your psyche as a child such a positive experience that it built within you a relationship. You didn’t just eat Cheerios, you grew up with Buzz the Bee.

But don’t just take my word for it. Watch how Pixar attributes their fun, free and masterfully creative work….to eating cereal, every minute of the day:

“Cereal has definitely played an integral part of how we make our movies at Pixar”. But it’s not just Pixar. All the big tech companies in Silicon Valley are famous for eating cereal at all hours of the day. Why? Creativity, success and cereal? Is it because cereal triggers our inner-child, unleashing our creative unconscious?

Of course there’s no creative elixirs in these cereals – other than the association people have with eating them; created through a wonderfully positive relationship with a family of Animated Characters. It’s not the food, it’s how the food hacked your attention. So, quite possibly, Attention Hacking is the ultimate business skill today.

Why Animated Characters Launched The Biggest Success Story Of The Modern Food Industry

The BBC said that cereals were, “The biggest success story of the modern food industry…moving this food from novelty to necessity…transforming cheap food commodities into hugely profitable brands…the foods that make billions”. The BBC also reported that 94% of the UK has a box of cereal in their pantry – while a century ago that number was a big fat zero.

W.K. Kellogg met Leo Burnett and everything changed. They had a talent for creating characters, taking boring foods to levels of entertainment and adventure. Using Animation to turn wild animals into friends. Kellogg’s ended up selling more cereal than all their rivals put together. As of 2013 they’re still the #1 leader in their market, earning billions every single year.

How You Can Have An Animated Character For Your Brand, Today

Kellogg spent buckets full of cash to create Tony the Tiger, Cornelius and Toucan Sam. But you don’t have to – you have access to a library full of animated characters to rapidly grow your brand inside of PowToon. Which one would you like to use for your business?

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Never before was it possible to leverage the power of animated characters without spending thousands or more on a professional animator. Today with PowToon, you have a complete and professional studio right at your fingertips.

So go ahead and unleash your inner Attention Hacker with PowToon right now >>

Tell me, what did you like​ most about this post? What gave you a breakthrough insight? Comment below, the PowToon Tribe would benefit a ton from you!

you’re Awesome!


P.S. – It’s not just the billion dollar cereals that use animated characters to grow their brands. The biggest brands in the world all have animated characters. Here’s the billion dollar list:


Quaker Oats (Pepsico)

Rice Krispies – Animated Little People, Snap, Crackle and Pop

Corn Flakes – Cornelius (Corny) Rooster (bio)

Trix – Animated Rabbit

Frosted Flakes – Animated Tiger named Tony

Lucky Charms – Animated Elf

Cap’n Crunch – Animated Sea Captain

Honey Nut Cheerios – Animated Bee

Froot Loops – Animated Toucan named Sam

Raisin Bran – Animated Sun with hands

Smax – Animated Frog


​ Twitter



Bic Pen Man

Playdough Boy

Keebler Elves


Aunt Jemima

Hootsuite Owl

HostGator Gator

Google Android’s Android

Bitly Pufferfish

Cheetos Cheetah

Monopoly Man

Michelin Man

Mr. Clean



Pillsbury Doughboy (best name, ever)

Mickey Mouse

Geico Gecko

Geoffrey Giraffe Toys ​ ‘R Us

Jolly Green Giant

Mr. Peanut

Nesquik Bunny

Kool Aid Man

Chiquita Banana Woman

Sunkist Raisin Woman

Land O’ Lakes Butter Woman

​ …and yes, these guys challenged each other to the Ice Bucket challenge:

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Ari Sherbill

VP Business Development @Powtoon. Ari's known as the "High Energy Guy" who currently advises Fortune 500 companies, Hollywood Studios and over 5,000 executives and business owners every month how to increase their leads, engagement and sales with Powtoon. He's spoken on stage with MGM, the Sands Hotel, 3M and Oracle. NASA referred to his strategies as "fresh and intriguing". Learn how to grow your sales and impact by following me on twitter: @AriSherbill


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