Rumour has it that Mr Kellogg, after he invented his infamous Cornflakes, was so enamoured with his creation that he wanted to make sure that everybody who ate them did so knowing exactly how they should be eaten: the right shape of bowl, the right amount of sugar and the perfect temperature of milk. He wanted to ensure that everybody experienced the product perfectly. Trouble was, that as no-one had ever eaten a Cornflake before, there was a huge amount of distrust in the market about this new fangled food product.
This meant, he thought, that he had to personally visit every household who bought a packet of Cornflakes in order to engender trust between him and his customer. This worked for a couple of weeks but of course as word got around, and families tucked into one of the worlds most popular processed foods, the possibility of visiting hundreds of enthusiastic families before 8 in the morning became, of course, impossible.
Mr Kellogg realised – with the help of his wife, so the rumour goes – that he needed something else which stood in his place and which instilled public trust and confidence in his product, but without him having to be there in person.
At first he printed up life-size cardboard cut outs with his image printed on them which he dispatched with crate loads of Cornflakes to towns in the Midwest. He insisted that each box of Cornflake product was accompanied by one of these life-size models, accompanied by a personalised speech bubble which he personally wrote. The best to you each morning was one of those speech bubbles in the early days. Mrs Kellogg was hugely influential in this aspect of the process, so we are told.
This primitive form of marketing worked too for some months, and involved the production of many thousands of Mr Kellogg Cardboard Cut outs distributed across the United States. However, it soon became clear that this form of marketing was also unsustainable: there were only so many hours in the day and Mr Kellogg needed to keep on reinventing breakfast product, not writing speech bubbles for cardboard cut outs.
So, the next innovation he made was to completely rethink his presence. He scaled down the cutout to the size of a postcard, turned it into flimsy paper and put pictures of the product on it along with a selection of the best speech bubbles. Thus was the first promotional leaflet born.
This is a valuable lesson for many business start-ups: if you cannot be present at every sale of your perfect product, you’ll need a surrogate ‘you’ which instills the same level of trust and confidence in that product, as if you were there in person. The promotional leaflet is the perfect solution. And as Mr Kellogg also found, they frequently taste better than the actual product they are meant to be promoting. Particularly with a spoonful of sugar, 35ml of milk at 4 degrees Centigrade and in a plain white teardrop shaped porcelain bowl.