Honey Monster Cereal Products: Brand Extension

Honey Monster Cereals: An Overview

Sugar Puffs is a popular breakfast cereal in the United Kingdom manufactured by Quaker Oats (MrTunney 2001). PepsiCo acquired Sugar Puffs with its merger with Quaker Oats in August 2001 (Quaker Oats Company, 2009). In September 2006, the Big Bear acquired Sugar Puffs from PepsiCo along with Puffed Wheat, Cheweee, Feaster bars (Honey Monster Foods 2009) and Harvest cereal bar (Welcome to the home n.d.; Follow the Honey 2006; UK: Quaker sells 2006). Sugar Puffs and Harvest’s production remained in Southall, Middlesex (Welcome to the home n.d.).

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Big Bear was established in 2003 for the purpose of acquiring Fox’s Confectionery from its manufacturer Northern Foods (Follow the Honey 2006; Welcome to the home n.d.). The Bear’s mission is to acquire “under-invested heritage brands” in order to revive their presence in the market (Follow the Honey 2006, para. 1). Thus, Fox’s brands such as Glacier, Paynes Poppets, Just Brazils and XXX Mints gained remarkable growth with increased distribution outlets and capital investment (Welcome to the home n.d.).

Honey Monster, the recognized mascot of Sugar Puffs, was created for the purpose of promoting the breakfast cereal (MrTunney 2001). Honey Monster (as the mascot) began in the 1970s (Follow the Honey 2006; Honey Monster Foods 2009) and first appeared in 1976 with Henry McGee in a television advert (Classic Ads 1976; About Us 2009) to spread Sugar Puffs where Honey Monster referred to McGee as his Mummy while saying “Tell them about the honey, Mummy” (About Us 2009, para. 4). However, when the cereals (Sugar Puffs and Harvest) were acquired by Big Bear, the mascot’s name was adapted to be the new company banner which is Honey Monster Foods (Welcome to the home n.d.; About Us 2009). Honey Monster Foods is now a division of Big Bear Group (Honey Monster Foods 2009).

New products added by Honey Monster to its line up are Honey Waffles and Honey Meltz (About Us 2009), besides Monster Rocks and Banana Puffs. The company slogan of Honey Monster is “Feed the Fun” (About Us 2009, para. 7), exemplifying that eating is enjoyable.

Honey Monster as Sugar Puffs’ Mascot

Honey Monster is the official mascot of Sugar Puffs, originally produced by Quaker Oats (MrTunney 2001). He stands 7 feet, with yellow fur, and speaks in a “deep, gravely voice” with sufficient knowledge of English (MrTunney 2001, para. 2). He was shown engaged in sports (mountain biking, snowboarding, soccer) in adverts saying the final lines “Groovy!” or “Haha!” (MrTunney 2001, para. 2). Honey Monster underwent several transformations in several commercials which is apparent with the passage of time as shown in Figures 1 to 3.

Honey Monster (Source: Classic Ads, 1985)
Figure 1. Honey Monster (Source: Classic Ads, 1985)
Honey Monster (Source: Yahtzee 2002)
Figure 2. Honey Monster (Source: Yahtzee 2002)
Honey Monster (Source: Classic Ads, 2008)
Figure 3. Honey Monster (Source: Classic Ads, 2008)

The Mascot is projected as a friendly character wearing a tight red T-shirt that helps out children “out of tight spots” (Vista 2008, para. 1). From a goody guy helping kids, Honey Monster is reinvented as ladies’ man that rescues pretty ladies from peril and make them laugh with clever one-liner “Honey Monster we salute you!” (Vista 2008, para. 3).

Honey Monster is deeply associated with Sugar Puffs that with the latter’s acquisition by Big Bear, the company producing Sugar Puffs was renamed Honey Monster Foods. Honey Monster is synonymous with Sugar Puffs, Jane James of Big Bear said (Honey Monster returns 2008).

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The Birth of Sugar Puffs

Sugar Puffs was originally launched in the market in 1954 and gained a reputation as a household name (UK: Quaker sells 2006; Honey Monster Foods 2009). A healthy cereal called Puffed Wheat with whole grain existed but without the delectable taste that children love (About Us 2009). Then, during that year, the Southall Factory coated the puffed grains of wheat with honey that reinvented the product into Sugar Puffs (About Us 2009).

It is ranked 10th place in the “ready-to-eat” cereal industry worth GBP1.3bn or US$2.4bn (UK: Quaker sells 2006, para. 2; Honey Monster Foods 2009, para. 1; Honey Monster shakes 2006, para. 2). In the children segment, it is rank as 4th with 12 percent consumption (UK: Quaker sells 2006; Honey Monster shakes 2006). Although Honey Monster is a kid’s food, 63 percent of its consumers are adults (Follow the Honey 2006). Denmark is the biggest of the Sugar Puffs’ export markets that accounts to 20 percent of the total production (UK: Quaker sells 2006).

The impact of Honey Monster to people can be exemplified in the case of one Sugar Puffs fan who eats at least a bowl of the cereal in a day since the age of nine (Gurner 2008). Peter Thomas, now 32 years old officially changed his name to Honey Monster, as well as his credit card’s name (Gurner 2008).

Brand Positioning

Brand is defined as “a name, term, sign, symbol (symbols with all that represent a brand, a tangible, a character, a visual metaphor, a logo, a color, a gesture, a musical note, a package, or a program)” (Aker & Joachimsthaler 2000, p. 122) or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods or services of one-seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors (Aaker & Joachimsthaler 2000). A brand can be a product or service that satisfies a need. The brand may be more symbolic, emotional or intangible-related to what the brand represents (Kotler & Keller 2007). Companies have to compete and plan efficient marketing strategies for their products to gain a better position in the market much more that similar products target the same customer segment. Companies take advantage of consumers’ emotional needs and “desire to consume” (Na 2001, p. 9) in imposing the products into them.

According to Na (2001), companies use brands as tools to develop their customer base and maintain loyalty. A strong brand presence does not however ensure a continuous patronage since the taste of customers may change (e.g. decline of Nescafe) (Na 2001). Providing quality service promotes a brand as in the case of Amazon (Na 2001). Customers’ outlook on brands is changing that come to be symbolized as a “way of life or a set of ideas” (e.g. “just-do-it” by Nike, “carefree fun” by Coca-Cola with) (Na 2001, p. 9).

Brand positioning refers to the fitting of the product into the needs of the consumer. It is defined as “how a product appears in relation to other products in the market” (Brand Positioning n.d., para. 2). Positioning and brand extension are both used in the promotion of a product. Positioning provides leverage for a product in the market. All products gain their position in the market. People have their own notions of a product whether they are true or not. Thus, a successful positioning relays a consistent message to consumers about the product. Marketers consider what consumers think about the product and puts emphasis on it. Positioning a brand can be attained through the creation of products that would meet particular market demands or to penetrate new market. Positioning can also be attained by producing new types of products or variation of existing ones (e.g. new size of the same product).

Identification of new usage or benefit of an existing product that gives added value is another mode of positioning (e.g. Arm & Hammer’s food ingredient was positioned as a refrigerator deodorant). This allowed the company to enter a new market niche while retaining the original one.

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Positioning is a perception on the product, service or organization that occurs in the “minds of the target market” (Brand Aid 2009, para. 1) whether the “management is proactive, reactive or passive” on the continuous process of changing the position (Brand Aid 2009, para. 3). A company can affect perception through the use of strategic activities (Brand Aid 2009). Marketers do this by creating an “image or identity in the minds of the target market for its product, brand, or organization (Brand Aid 2009, para. 5). The positioning process are: “a) defining the market in which the product or brand will compete (who the relevant buyers are), b) identifying the attributes (also called dimensions) that define the product ‘space’, and c) collecting information from a sample of customers about their perceptions of each product on the relevant attributes” (Brand Aid 2009, para. 9).

The added value to the product determines the positioning of the brand in the market (Brand Positioning n.d.). A brand can be positioned against rival brands using the perceptual map shown below:

The perceptual map (Source: Brand Positioning n.d.)
Figure 4. The perceptual map (Source: Brand Positioning n.d.)

A perceptual map describes the market according to the manner consumers see the main attributes of rival products (Brand Positioning n.d.).

Brand positioning is exemplified in the case of Honey Monster. One example is the transformation of the image of the mascot several times from the 1970s up to the present. By helping out kids get out of a mess, Honey Monster created an image for the children. The athletic Honey Monster targets the sports enthusiasts and fans as well as the athletes themselves. He also projected an image that Sugar Puffs would make a person beautiful and healthy by associating him with beautiful women whom he rescued from danger. The mascot himself underwent physical changes from a hairless character (Figure 1) to one with long fine hair (Figure 3). It is apparent, however, that when Honey Monster was portrayed to have hair (Figure 2), it was not as long as the current portrayal. The current mascot with his fine long hair would be more lovable to caress. From the series of transformations in actions and physical appearance, Honey Monster is targeting different consumer segments for Sugar Puffs.

Big Bear likewise embarked on brand positioning upon its acquisition of Sugar Puffs from PepsiCo. Due to the popularity of the Honey Monster mascot, Big Bear adapted his name and created the Honey Monster Foods that would manufacture Sugar Puffs. Honey Monster then is no longer just a mascot but the company that produces Sugar Puffs.

On the health benefits of the breakfast cereal, Sugar Puffs is positioned as a healthy option. A study on breakfast cereals revealed that “breakfast cereals contain high levels of fat, salt and sugar – with some containing as much fat and sugar as a bar of chocolate or packet of potato crisps” (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006, para. 1). In a survey of 275 cereal products conducted by Consumer Group Which?, it appeared that 76 percent “had high levels of sugar, while 19% had high levels of salt and 7% had high levels of saturated fat” (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006, para. 2).

In fact, the test conducted by the Food Standard Agency in UK revealed that only 13 percent of cereal products were given a green light. Morrison’s and Golden Puffs (by Asda) were among the “worst offenders” of those labeled with red lights with 55 grams of sugar in every 100 grams (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006, para. 3). For salt content, one-fifth of cereals had high level (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006). Consumer Group Which? identified All-Bran (Kellogg’s) and Right Balance (Morrisons) to have salt content above the rest per suggested serving (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006). While generally, saturated fats were low in many cereals, the group found out that Crunchy Oat Cereal (Sainsbury) has fat equivalent to pork sausages (20.3 grams of fat per 100 grams) in supermarkets (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006). Fat contents of other cereal products are: Country Crisp Four Nut Combo (Jordan) has 28.5 grams per 100 grams while McBacon Roll (McDonald’s) has almost the same amount with Country Crisp (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006). Hawaiian Crunch (Asda), Crunchy Oat (Sainsbury) and Passion Fruit Crisp (Asda) all have 4 grams (equivalent to two fried eggs) of saturated fats per recommended serving (UK: Manufacturers criticised 2006).

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Attaching the word “sugar” in Sugar Puffs positions it as a healthier choice than the salt-laden products considered as the gravest offender in the “child nutrition sector” (Follow the Honey 2006, para. 4). Big Bear faces a big challenge in product promotion since it has to take into account the increasing awareness of consumers on health concerns (Follow the Honey 2006). To maintain its position in the market, Big Bear embarked on a country-wide promotional tour with the Sugar Puffs Train wherein kids can ride the train and are given free Sugar Puffs (About Us 2009). Honey Monster also visited fairs, carnivals and fetes (About Us 2009, para. 2). Jeremy the Bear was featured in adverts and cover packs of Sugar Puffs in the 1960s (About Us 2009).

Brand Extension

Successful brand extension hinges on the “underlying associations” a company creates, maintains and promises to the customers (Davis & Halligan 2001, p. 1). According to David Aaker, tying a product closely to a product type limits its capability to extend (Davis & Halligan 2001). Extension of the brand must be supportive of the positioning and is interrelated with customer relationship (Davis & Halligan 2001). Thus, brand extension must promote any or all of the following positioning elements: a) extends target market (Gillete’s targeting women for its Sensor for women), b) extends business definition (technology-based to technology-based solutions by IBM), c) extends point of difference (new drop-off time for packages by Federal Express), and d) extends entire positioning (especially when entering a new market the first time) (Davis & Halligan 2001).

New products are introduced in the market for the purpose of attracting more customers and capture a wider market share (Jahangir, Parvez, Bhattacharjee, & Khaled Bin Ahamed 2009). Successful companies embark on new products or brand extension to attain growth and distinguish themselves from the rest of the competitors (Jahangir et al. 2009). With the difficulty and risk in launching new products (Panwar & Bapat 2007, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009), brand extension might be more successful if the extended brand product is accepted by customers (Jahangir et al. 2009). Brand extension refers to the use of an established brand name to enter a different product category (Aaker 1990; Tauber 1988, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009).

The use of brand extension entails lesser cost and higher success resulting from preference arising from “core brand equity” (Chen & Liu, 2004, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 21). The attitude of consumers toward the new product is influenced by antecedents which are: parent brand trust and parent brand affect (Jahangir et al. 2009).

Brand attitude, measured by brand trust, brand affect, and brand quality (Chaudhuri & Holbrook 2001, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009), is the “highest level of brand association” and is usually the basis of consumer attitude or brand choice (Keller, 1998, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 21). Parent brand (Chen 2001, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009,) and perceived quality (Jahangir et al. 2009) influence consumers’ inclination to buy and attitude toward the brand extension. Parent brand lowers exposure to risks and failure (Thiele & Mackay 2001, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009).

The Conceptual framework (Source: Jahangir et al. 2009)
Figure 5. The Conceptual framework (Source: Jahangir et al. 2009)

Brand extension is a marketing strategy used to enhance brand equity (Jahangir et al. 2009). As Aaker (1991, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 21) said, a “‘good’ brand extension strategy is one where the brand name aids the extension, while a ‘very good’ brand extension also enhances the brand name.” Brand extension is a process wherein the central brand associations of the parent brand is transferred to the brand extension, engendering a need to understand consumer perception of both the parent brand and the extension (Jahangir et al. 2009).

Trust is a foundation of a long-term relationship. Rotter (1967, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 22) said that trust is defined as a “generalized expectancy held by an individual that the word of another can be relied on” while Chaudhuri & Holbrook (2001, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 22) said that it is the “willingness of the average consumer to rely on the ability of the brand to perform its stated function.”

Trust is essential in gaining credibility and acceptance of the extension (Keller & Aaker, 1992, as cited in as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009), expansion of loyalty (Berry 1993; Reicheld & Schefter 2000, as cited in as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009), and maintenance of a strong relationship (Labahn & Kohli 1997, as cited in as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009). It is a necessary part of brand equity (Dyson et al. 1996, as cited in as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009) and “perhaps the single most powerful relationship marketing tool” a firm could utilize (Berry, 1995, as cited in as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 22). Trust provides an assurance that one party will not exploit another (Jahangir et al. 2009).

Brand affect refers to the capability of the brand to bring forth affirmative “emotional response” in an ordinary consumer due to its use (Chaudhuri & Holbrook 2002; Morgan & Hunt 1994, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009, p. 22). Brand quality is determined objectively (measurable and verifiable attributes of products or services, processes and quality control) and perceptively (value judgments or perceptions of quality by consumers) (Brunsø et al., 2005, as cited by in Jahangir et al. 2009). The perception of quality hinges on several factors at the time the consumer purchases the product, the location, etc. (Jahangir et al. 2009).

Loyalty is the expression of satisfaction by the customer on the product or service (Bloemer & Kasper, 1995, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009). It is also correlated with repeated purchase (Ehrenberg, 1988, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009), preference (Guest, 1944, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009), and commitment (Hawkes, 1994, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009). Brand loyalty measures are categorised as behavioral loyalty (purchases observed over a time period) and attitudinal loyalty (based on identified preferences, commitment or purchase motives) (Mellens et al., 1996, as cited in Jahangir et al. 2009).

Banana Puffs and Monster Rocks: Brand Extension Products

Building on the success and popularity of Sugar Puffs, Big Bear plans to widen its consumption that would include more age groups, underscoring its positive attributes, such as “nutritional value” and “natural origins” (UK: Quaker sells 2006, para. 3). The company has maximized the use of Honey Monster mascot in extending the brand into complementary markets and categories” (UK: Quaker sells 2006). Big Bear Managing Director Mario Giannotta said that Sugar Puffs brand will be extended to “new and exciting product areas” (UK: Quaker sells 2006, para. 6).

Big Bear expansion of product materialised with the launching of two limited edition cereals in UK of Banana Puffs and Monster Rocks in June 2009 (UK: Honey Monster 2009). Banana Puffs are patterned after Sugar Puffs and produced without artificial flavouring, colour or preservative (UK: Honey Monster 2009).

Monster Rocks is a new cereal product by Honey Monster to provide cereal lovers a different approach to their breakfast (Honey Monster Introduces 2009). This addition to the Monster products contains wholegrain oat, maize flakes and crunchy rice blended together with honey (Honey Monster Introduces 2009) to produce the new treat that would make children’s breakfast more enjoyable. With the increasing health awareness of consumers, Monster Rocks is manufactured with less sugar than other pre-sweetened cereals offered in the market (UK: Honey Monster 2009).

Marketing head Jane James said that Big Bear aims to make breakfast enjoyable for kids who usually skip such meal (UK: Honey Monster 2009; Honey Monster Introduces 2009). With Monster Rocks, a balance is made “between what kids are happy to eat and what parents are happy to feed them” (UK: Honey Monster 2009). Giving healthy food to their kids is an essential motivator of parents during breakfast time, but knowing that what they feed the kids are eaten provides value for their money (UK: Honey Monster 2009; Honey Monster Introduces 2009).

Promotional Campaign

Companies need to consider marketing strategies to keep the brand image in the consumers’ mind. Persistent promotional campaigns will enhance brand awareness. Thus, it is the aim of campaigns that consumers remember one or more of the attributes of the brand and bolster product recall. Brand recall is the consumer’s ability to name the brand from among the product categories (Dolak 2003). Brand awareness then has the objective of stimulating the minds of consumers to remember the brand. Brand awareness refers to the recognition by consumers of a product to belong to a particular company but does not necessarily mean that they prefer or attach a high value to it (Dolak 2003). Establishing brand awareness among the target segment is one of the primary elements in the promotion of a brand (Brand Awareness 2009).

In its goal to reestablish Honey Monster Foods as the family favourite in the cereal category, it embarked on a promotional campaign to strengthen brand awareness and leverage of its popular brand equity, the mascot Honey Monster (Honey Monster 2009). The primary element in the total campaign is the creation of the brand-led website that would feature all products (Honey Monster 2009). Thus, the current website is developed in coordination with Classic Studios that contains ringtone downloads, blog, flash games, online competition, popular old adverts, etc. (Honey Monster 2009). Third parties such as DreamWorks and Alton Towers were involved in the process to attain strict branding standards (Honey Monster 2009). The success of the website is apparent with 10,000 page impressions in a day during the first three months of the launch (Honey Monster 2009). Users likewise provide positive response on featuring of classic TV adverts (Honey Monster 2009). Honey Monster Foods plan to expand the content and increase traffic by offering more promotions (Honey Monster 2009).

The Honey Monster’s return, who was out of television for years, was supported by a multimedia promotional campaign of £3.2m for Sugar Puffs, Honey Meltz and Honey Waffles (launched 10 March 2008) (Honey Monster returns 2008). The adverts were run from March to May and July to mid-August in GMTV, Five, Nickelodeon and multi-channel for maximum exposure (Honey Monster returns 2008). The reappearance of Honey Monster was done with contemporary expression but in the same tradition and fun character he was known to be (Honey Monster returns 2008). The “familiarity factor” of Honey Monster was greatly used in the promotion of the brand extensions of cereals, Jane James said (Honey Monster returns 2008, para. 7).

In the launching of Monster Rocks and Banana Puffs, a complete PR campaign and funding of £1m supported the activities (Honey Monster Introduces 2009). Part of the activities includes sponsorship by Honey Monster of the WWE WrestleMania Revenge Tour (UK: Honey Monster 2009; Honey Monster Introduces 2009).

Conclusion

Brand extension is one facet of brand positioning. Honey Monster has evolved from a product promoting mascot into a company banner due to its acceptability and popularity. In fact, the mere sight of Sugar Puffs cereal brings into mind Honey Monster. Both the product and the mascot are associated and equated with each other. The marketing strategist of the new owner of Sugar Puffs, Big Bear, capitalised on the wide acceptance and appeal of Honey Monster to both the children and adults when it evolved the mascot into Honey Monster Foods. Now, Honey Monster does not merely refer to the mascot and his associated Sugar Puffs but to the cereal’s producer. Articles and news items can be seen to interchangeably use Honey Monster to the company and the mascot. This is positioning on the grand scale because it broadened the connotation of the term Honey Monster not just to the long-time favourite Sugar Puffs but to other brand extensions and new products.

Despite the popularity of Honey Monster and Sugar Puffs, the positioning and introduction of new products into the market is not left to market forces without active participation on the part of Big Bear. Thus, it invested capital and time to promote the new company, the mascot, Sugar Puffs and the new products. Big Bear created a website to showcase Honey Monster, its products, activities and promotions. It has partnered with movie outfits for the sponsorship of some feature films. It has also promoted sports activities by sponsoring the Wrestlemania Revenge Tour in the UK. It gives free downloads and ringtones and sells T-shirts and other novelty items. Free Honey Monster comic can also be found inside Sugar Puffs boxes.

Two new brand extensions introduced in 2009 are the Monster Rocks and Banana Puffs. These products utilised the widespread acceptance of Honey Monster and Sugar Puffs as can be gleaned from the brand (e.g. Monster and Puffs). This is a clear example of brand extension, that is, introducing new products in the market using the positive attributes of the parent brand. Although Honey Monster is not a product brand, its widespread popularity and association with Sugar Puffs makes Honey Monster an acceptable leverage to launch a new product.

Big Bear made use of all available venues to position its products in the market. Its marketing approach is holistic in the sense that it used the tri-media – the radio, television and print media. Since the internet can be considered as a fastest venue to spread information and promote products, Big Bear has also created a website for Honey Monster. Billions of pounds were earmarked for promotional tours and activities. It does this in order to regain the product’s strong presence in the market. While it is true that Sugar Puffs has been in the market for several decades, the continued influx of newer cereals with greater promotion and adverts create more influential images and perception among the consumers that could bring Sugar Puffs into the background. It is a fact that popular brands in the past were wiped out in the market when newer products were introduced with effective campaign. Thus, it is but proper for Big Bear to make use of all campaign media and invest sufficient amount of money to maintain the strong presence of Sugar Puffs, Monster Rocks, Banana Puffs and other products so that the image will remain in the market and the positive perception be retained in the minds of consumers.

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