Honey Nut Cheerios tells a story about bees

How General Mills refined its focus on engaging with kids for this year's "Bring Back The Bees" campaign.
Honey Nut Cheerios-Canadian Author Paulette Bourgeois showcasing

A lot of brands have been focusing on storytelling in their marketing, but General Mills is taking that idea in a new direction for this year’s “Bring Back The Bees” campaign for Honey Nut Cheerios.

Paulette Bourgeois, a Canadian children’s author best known for creating the Franklin the Turtle book series, worked with General Mills to create Bella and Jack Bring Back The Bees. The illustrated story tells the story of two children who learn about the world’s declining bee population and the things they can do to help – the mission at the core of the “Bring Back The Bees” campaign for the last three years.

General Mills will be distributing 100,000 copies of the book for free through Indigo, Chapters and Coles bookstores.

Emma Eriksson, VP of marketing at General Mills Canada, says bringing a children’s book to this year’s campaign fits with a shift towards targeting Canadian children with the brand’s CSR mission. When it first launched, “Bring Back The Bees” was aimed at boomers and grandparents, groups consumer research suggested would connect with the purpose behind the campaign. But after it launched, it found that kids were among the most excited to get involved to plant wildflowers that would help bee populations thrive.

“We focused more on them last year, and this year decided to lean even more into that to bring this next generation along to be champions for the bees, because that’s how we are going to change the world for the better,” Eriksson says.

The broader campaign features a now-familiar TV spot, targeted pre-roll, social, in-store and, as always, the removal of mascot Buzz from Honey Nut Cheerios boxes.

As part of the focus on bringing the mission to children, this year’s campaign also features a renewal of a partnership with Corus’ YTV. Last year, educational segments aired during the network’s Zone Weekend and Big Fun Movies programming blocks. Eriksson says the brand wanted to continue to capitalize on YTV’s knowledge of how to connect with a younger audience, but this year opted to do it through animated segments featuring the book’s title characters.

“We still wanted it to be an educational component,” she says. “But doing that through segments where these characters are learning about the bees was a way to leverage the book, bring it to life and make it interesting for kids. We’re bringing kids what they would want to see.”

The brand will also continue to send packets of wildflower seeds for consumers to plant. Eriksson says “Bring Back The Bees” has resulted in over 600 million seeds sent out, and aims to send out another 300 million this year.

“We know kids are very influential within the households,” Eriksson says. “They are the ones who bring new ideas to parents, and parents want teachable moments with kids where they can do things together and do good in the world. This is the perfect, small little thing that a family can do together.”

The idea of releasing a book that parents can read to or with their kids also fits with that idea of fun family activities that also contribute to a social good mission, but also adds to the longevity and impact of the campaign.

“Reading is such an essential part of childhood and having a physical book that kids can read over and over again can be part of their library at home is what we were aiming for,” Eriksson says. “It gives us a physical manifestation of the campaign, and this idea can live in kids’ lives for a longer time than a TV commercial.”