Last week I was deep in research when a delivery man came to the door with a big box. I accepted it, shoved it to the side, and got back to work. I had things to do. Statistics to melt my brain with. I was busy. I got back to the box–resentfully–when it was time for a break. Was it more books I’d feel pressured to review? Oh no, it was something so much better than books. It was food.
Delicious, geeky, breakfast food.
General Mills contacted me a few weeks back, looking for a review of their Superman V Batman tie-in cereals. Naturally, I accepted. The cereals, Caramel Crunch and Strawberry Chocolate respectively, arrived in a big package, complete with other SuperBat goodies.
I’m cynical about marketing, and normally that means that publishers’ complimentary postcards and magnets get tossed into a box of other swag, and any charm the packaging might have is smothered by my analysis of it. But this package, it found my weak spot. General Mills was careful to provide not just samples of their product, but an experience: receiving and opening a present, dressing up, and with the provided #supercereal bowl and spoon, sitting down to a childhood ritual of breakfast and cartoons.
As I livetweeted the unboxing, my first impressions, and my first taste, I realized that’s exactly what they intended for me to do. Not only was I making my Twitter friends jealous, but I was drawing them into the experience too–a late and lazy nerd Christmas morning with friends demanding I put on the mask, put on the cape, take video of my first bite. So I put on the cape and the mask, and I felt simple joy. This was fun.
But was the cereal any good? YES.
I started with the Superman cereal, trying it first without and then with milk. I wanted, you understand, to get the full flavour profile. It’s a lovely cereal, eaten either way, kind of a caramel Corn Pop with more whole grains and less high fructose corn syrup. It’s light in texture and flavour, subtly sweet without a cloying aftertaste, but not delicate. It feels substantial. It feels exactly like a Superman cereal should.
The Batman cereal, on the other hand, is quite a bit richer. Unlike the Superman cereal, it has an aftertaste–lingering and competing notes of dark chocolate and strawberry, both quite strong. It’s an intense cereal and better dry–a bit muted without the milk absorbing and intensifying the flavour. Where the Superman cereal is shaped into little shields, the Batman cereal is little bats. It’s adorable. Bruce Wayne wouldn’t like that aspect of it but he might like the flavour.
It feels a bit funny to psychoanalyze breakfast cereal, but the General Mills product development team clearly did just that. Their caramel crunch SuperCereal just feels like Clark Kent, and their strawberry chocolate BatCereal, more complicated and occasionally a little overwhelming, is so damn Bruce Wayne. These are thoughtful products. Designed and packaged–and marketed–with care. They aren’t, however, cereals I’d want to eat regularly, being more special treat than daily grind.
But that’s appropriate, isn’t it?
I forgot all about my research because of their arrival, and I spent at least an hour lovingly unboxing my package, trying the cereals, and playing with my new toys. I ate those cereals wearing a Superman cape and a Batman mask, and they were even more satisfying because of it. I’m keeping the mask and cape–it’s a wonderful cape, by the way–and have hung them up for Halloween and other special occasions. And for the next few weeks, in the afternoons, I’ll be snacking on these cereals and thinking about the upcoming film.
And that more than anything is a sign that General Mills achieved their goal–I’m interested, I’m invested, and writing this piece, I’m hungry.