Sunday, October 31, 2010

More Packaged Goods: Is Personalizing Your Oatmeal Experience…Better?

This is probably the kind of post that will make the brand marketing people at Malt-o-Meal and Hunter Public Relations cry – or laugh out loud. When they introduced a complete new product line – Better Oats – they did everything “marketing” that could be expected of them. And still, I only noticed the products when Signalwriter’s personal shopper saw a “good deal” on a box at the supermarket.

The Better Oats parent is Malt-O-Meal which has been around since 1919 and it’s pretty well-recognized these days as the value brand in most stores’ breakfast cereal aisles. Now they’ve put their thinking caps on to revolutionize the instant oatmeal category. (Yes, one of the new sub-brands is “Oat Revolution.” Sigh.)

It’s possible they’ve succeeded – and I almost missed it. But I’ve got to say that I’m really happy they didn’t try too hard to position it on the “personalized oatmeal experience” idea. That line’s in the introductory press release:

With 34 different offerings, Better Oats provides consumers with the ability to personalize their oatmeal experience with varieties like traditional Oat Revolution™, Oat Fit™ for the weight-conscious, mmm…Muffins™ for a sweet start to the day, Lavish™ to satisfy chocolate cravings and Oat Revolution™ Thick and Hearty for an old-fashioned oatmeal experience instantly. Varieties of Mom’s Best Naturals® – which include Plain Grain Organic and Dark Chocolate – are found exclusively in the natural food/organic aisle in supermarkets nationwide.

It’s not like America needs more kinds of instant oatmeal (or maybe, right before a contentious election, it really does). But my ad guy’s porkpie hat is raised to the entire Better Oats team because every launch detail is right, in my opinion. There’s fine packaging and an interesting collection of sub-brands, plus some useful waste-reducing ideas. There’s the quite-alright website…clean and simple and attractive.

The Better Oats brand line has gone on the road with a “Grains of Change” tour* and that’s connected to a Facebook fan page and trial stimulator, complete with a coupon (which I have downloaded and used). And I have kitchen-tested the “oatmeal experience” by consuming servings of the mmm…Muffins and Oat Revolution varieties. They are good and there isn’t much in the way of unnatural ingredients in ‘em.

Missing the introduction is a question of noise level. This is a crowded category. And do Americans need another complete line of breakfast cereals? On the other hand…breakfast is good for you. If you eat breakfast, you’re likely to promote healthy eating habits. And oats – oats are good for you, too. So if a company can actually make a successful additional entry into this category, it’s worth a lot for us as consumers to try something healthy and…novel (which the Better Oats lines are). And Malt-O-Meal can take over more of a grocer’s shelf with packaged goods that deliver excellent margins, thank you very much.

Maybe making instant oatmeal more personally tailorable is exactly right for the second decade of the 21st Century. After all, breakfast cereals are the third most popular grocery story category, I have read. Better products and more comprehensive marketing will always gain new products (like Better Oats) a place at the table. Go for it, oatmeal guys!

*I know it’s tongue-in-cheek but shoot “Otis Wholegrainer – Oatmeal Czar” anyway – that idea is…unrevolutionary.

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