Wednesday, January 2, 2008

I Vant to Eat Your Cereal

Dear Rich: Can a vampire function as a trademark for children's cereal? General Mills' advertising agency thought so. It was 27 years ago this week that GM acquired the federal trademark registration for Count Chocula, the breakfast cereal that formed part of the company's Monster Cereal line including Fruit Brute, Yummy Mummy, Boo Berry, and Franken Berry. Only Franken Berry and the Count have survived the retail wars, and as some historians have noted, General Mills mysteriously refuses to acknowledge that Yummy Mummy was part of the Monster line - go figure.
What was different about the monster line? The Count and his buddies signaled a minor change in the intellectual property approach of breakfast food makers - moving from the historically positive nutrition claims and brand-positive marks (think Wheaties -- Breakfast of Champions) to bad-boy branding and an openly 'who cares' attitude about nutrition.
Can a vampire-derived sugar-laden cereal survive in 2007? Of course, the Count has had to adapt. He began to take on a healthy glow proclaiming he was fortified with eight essential vitamins. And in 2007, the back of the packaging -- in what is referred to by nutritionists as 'wheat-washing' -- included a scientific-looking questionnaire about diet and health while the front of the box proclaimed that Count Chocula was 'Made with Whole Grain'. (I guess 'Made with Whole Marshmallows' wasn't going to fly.)