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Truth in Advertising Children’s Products

I remember a simpler time, when a sugar cereal was called a sugar cereal – literally, the name had the word sugar in it. And everyone was happy about it. Parents loved buying it and kids loved eating it… because kids loved eating it. But with the passage of time, the growing call to action to “eat healthier” means we can no longer tell our kids they are eating sugar cereals – which means we can’t tell the parents. I mean, everyone KNOWS there is sugar in there (which is why kids eat it, and why parents buy it), but we can’t say it in the name or on the front of the box. Other than the teeny tiny type where it appears as the second ingredient in Frosted Flakes, sugar is nowhere else to be found…on the outside of the box. But there’s sugar aplenty inside.

On a recent trip to Mexico, I stumbled upon Frosted Flakes…only they were called “Zucaritas” – basically, Sugaritos. Now there’s an honest name! And the chocolate Frosted Flakes (wait, there are chocolate ones?!) are “Choco Zucaritas.” And they have marshmallows – more sugar! I mean, it’s not great to shove bowls of sugar into your child each morning before he or she goes off to school, but if you’re going to do it, at least admit you’re doing it. I, for one, applaud this big bowl of honesty.

Let’s take a look back at when the USA embraced sugar cereal truth. Check out these cereal boxes of yore, showing Tony the Tiger (and some sort of hopped-up kangaroo) touting Kellogg’s SUGAR Frosted Flakes. I especially like the one on the bottom right, where the brand appears to have put extra sugar on the flakes for the photo. 

It’s time to revisit how we are marketing products, especially given the tremendous levels of obesity in our country. If brands are completely forthright about their products – say, including the word “sugar” in the name of sugar cereals – parents will most likely reevaluate how the products are consumed. They’ll still buy them because kids will still want  to eat them. However, everyone will be aware that this is a treat reserved for weekends, dessert, or other special rewards – not the healthy way to start every day. Heck, I let my son eat some Zucaritas while we were on vacation, and he understood it was a once-in-a-while food after I translated the name for him. 

Come on, fellow marketers. Let’s try informing audiences properly and see if they make the right decisions. Rather than polarizing people into two groups – those who hide the truth from themselves and those who vilify these products – I believe a newfound brand honesty will bring respect and with it enough new buyers to offset the reduced usage by current consumers. Kick it off, Kellogg’s, and go back to the old name: Sugar Frosted Flakes. Why? Because that’s grrrrrrreat!

~ Denise Blasevick, @AdvertGirl & CEO, The S3 Agency


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