Opportunity Lost

The other day I opened the cabinet to grab some cold cereal. I wasn’t sure which specific cereal I was going to have, I just knew that a bowl full of yummy not-too-sweet flakes with some almond milk splashed over them would be tasty. Probably I’d slice a banana over the cereal.

So, surveying the candidates with an open mind, I was confronted with… anonymous boxes. Black-and-white panels of nutrition information. I selected a cereal and resolved to put it away with the other edge showing, so my poor tired eyes could identify that box better the next time.

It turns out the other side was no better, and I realized that all the cereal boxes in the cabinet used the side panels as junk space.

Big mistake, I say. In the case of cereal, all the marketing is on the front of the box, with stuff on the back of the box to keep the kids without TV in the kitchen occupied. The packaging designers are missing an important opportunity.

There are two phases to marketing a box of cereal; first you get it off the store shelf and into the shopping cart. That’s what the front panel does. But the marketing isn’t over then; cereals are still competing to get from the box to the bowl. The winner of that contest empties the box faster. It’s about selling the next box.

That competition is all about the side panels. If I were king of a cereal company, the boring stuff would be on the back, and the side panels would be devoted exclusively to “Hey! Look at me! I’m yummy!”

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