General Mills Pushes Magic Brownies. Plus 5 Tips for Evaluating Bold Marketing Ideas.

Photo: Fiber One.

You’re in a conference room being pitched ideas for the marketing rollout of your new product and the recommendation is to use iconic marijuana-smoking characters from a 1970s movie.  What do you do?

Let’s talk about General Mills’ marketing – Magic Brownie Adventure Movie – to promote its new Fiber One Brownies featuring actors Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.

First, it had to be a tough, bold decision to move forward given the association to the actors’ iconic 1978 movie, Up in Smoke, and its drug theme.  But it’s that very association that forms the essence of the marketing idea here, a pretty powerful one at that.

Here’s what Kerry DeLaney, Associate Marketing Manager, Fiber One, told Advertising Age magazine:

“It was an effort to reach boomers online in a fun and humorous way, leveraging the nostalgia from the 60s and 70s in tying that to the benefits of fiber.  As people are getting older the magic in the brownies of yesterday have transformed into something more relevant today.”

Second, marketers are often criticized for playing it too close to the vest and not taking chances, and then when they do step out of the proverbial comfort zone, they run the risk of getting lambasted from all sides.

Photo: Fiber One.

I’m particularly interested in this marketing as a former fiber ingredients marketer to CPG companies, including General Mills.

One of the first thoughts that came to mind after seeing the video was remembering what a VP Marketing at a major CPG company (not GM) told our team:  “We’re trying to figure out how to make fiber sexy.”

GM has done a nice job with its Fiber One marketing (Cardboard no. Delicious yes.) and this campaign takes it to another level.

As a marketer, I doubt I’d have the you-know-what to green-light a decision to launch a marketing campaign that plays off a drug-related theme.  Whether you like the idea or not, give the GM team lots of credit for making a very bold call.

When you’re in the decision-making seat, keep these tips in mind for navigating risky terrain and evaluating bold marketing ideas:

  1. Every situation is different, so take a case-by-case decision-making approach;
  2. Make sure the idea is on strategy, otherwise stop – immediately;
  3. Being a bit uncomfortable is not an automatic disqualifier to proceed (it’s actually helpful sometimes in terms of activating new ideas);
  4. But, make sure you, your team, and your company properly vet the idea, and can and will support the decision to move forward.  The mirror test is a good barometer, as is plain old common sense;
  5. Scenario plan for potential backlash and make sure you and your company are willing to absorb and withstand any potential criticism.

Headline For Marketers

If you want to stand out, well, sometimes you really have to stand out.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.

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