How General Mills Rewarded the Guy Who Ate 1 Million Cheerio’s

Here’s another great PR story that I just love. First, a little backstory. General Mills is taking the heat on Facebook for using GMO’s in Cheerio’s.

PR Fail: Cheerio’s GMO Backlash Goes Social (MediaBistro)
Cheerio’s GMO Backlash Facebook Campaign Fail (CheeseSlave)

They haven’t deleted the complaints (at least not all of them) but the complaints continue to pour in, mixed in with cute babies enjoying their favorite breakfast cereal.

So not all is going grand for the brand right now.

However, they did something that I know will make Cheerio’s fans happy (and increase loyalty). It’s a great example of how to reward your best fans, plus a brilliant PR move.

This guy told General Mills that he ate his 10 Millionth Cheerio in November. Not only did they celebrate it on Facebook (not sure why they didn’t use the image of the poster, but still, they highlighted the post). They contracted an artist to make a picture of Chris and his history eating Cheerios.

Even though right now they have just created original artwork to commemorate the milestone, they could turn into an entire ad campaign (think of the way Subway incorporated Jared into their marketing after hearing how much weight he lost eating there). They could ask their fans: how many Cheerio’s have you eaten and where?

Chris posted about it on Reddit and it’s been going crazy since.

How did he count the # of Cheerio’s he ate?
“I estimated the number of Cheerios in a bowl and an average of how many I’ve had each day. The actual date was not really accurate, more that I just chose a date, emailed them with some funny ideas and they ran with it.”

Amazingly, Chris gave them the idea of using his story in their marketing. Here’s what he sent General Mills:

“Hi, I’m following up on my post regarding me about to eat my 10,000,000th cheerio. Just so you know how I came to this, I am guessing that I’ve eaten an average of 650 cheerios each day (1.2 average bowls) for 42.5 years (give or take). So the date may not be exact but it is very close.

Now, this can be done if a couple of funny ways. First we can do something for my “preparation” of the 10 millionth cheerio (preparing the dinner table with the good china, having it with nice wine/champagne. Wearing a tuxedo while I cross the threshold. Another way could be to have a “look back” at where I was when I ate my 1 millionth, 5 millionth, etc. We could have a little fun with this. Kind of like “The Onion” does, just “G” rated. Maybe on my 4 millionth I was getting ready for prom. 7 millionth I was really hung over after seeing my favorite hockey team lose in the playoffs the night before and I was drowning my sorrows. We could have milestones for my international cheerio moments when I had my first cheerios in London, Manila, San Juan, Toronto, etc. Maybe talk about the “purity” of the accomplishment as I have never eaten Honey Nut or other flavor cheerios including imitation brands (which are the Devil).

Anyway, this could be a funny/lighthearted marketing campaign (and it can be done by anyone, not just me).”

Someone from the company called him and discussed the possibilities and even though that was in November, they’re getting mileage out of it now.

Which brings me to my point.  Take a cue from General Mills! How can you creatively reward your biggest fans?

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