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April 02, 2011

Marketing lessons from Kellogg’s Indian experience

Kellogg’s is a name to reckon throughout the world. It is the company that introduced the concept of Corn flakes as a breakfast item throughout the world. They have taken on markets where corn flakes has never been very popular as breakfast and converted them into corn flake eating nations over a long period of time. They are experts in changing breakfast eating habits of customers’ across the world.

In the early nineties Kellogg came to India with lots of hope and confidence. The Indian organized breakfast market sector was expected to roll over and die. After all Kellogg’s annual turnover was so big that the Indian organized breakfast sector was written off even before the skirmishes started.

Kellogg did lot of home work and launched its products in India. They had the best products, packaging and their marketing strategy was excellent. The advertising campaign was handled by a leading Indian advertising agency.

Kellogg did not do as well as expected. The witch doctors (read marketing research firms) were called in. The research findings were very surprising. The areas where Kellogg went wrong include: 
1.   Kellogg pitched itself as an alternative to the regularly consumed breakfast. The Indian breakfast is heavy and there is a feeling of fullness at the end of an Indian breakfast. What with oily Parantas, Puris and Dosas, the feeling of fullness is real and not imagined. Kellogg’s Corn flake breakfast does not give that feeling of fullness and that went against the grain of having a total breakfast. In short after having a corn flake based breakfast the Indian consumers were still hungry. 
2.   Indian breakfast is known for its variety. There can be 30 types of Dosas (there is a restaurant in Hyderabad that offers 99 types of Dosas!) or Idlis, Parantas or other types of native Indian breakfast items. Indians are used to a variety and one item that is eaten will not be on offer for the next two or three weeks. Asking Indians to have the same type of corn flake based breakfast was too much of a cultural change for the Indians to accept.
  3.   Indians have spicy and hot food for breakfast. To ask them to eat the sweet tasting and cold corn flake breakfast was too much of a sweet breakfast for the Indians to digest. 

4.   Kellogg in its advertising campaigns hinted that the Indian breakfast was not nutritious and that Indian breakfast was not very good for health. This deeply hurt the sentiments of the home maker. The home makers said to themselves “We have eaten and served the Indian breakfast for decades and centuries. My family is doing fine”. Once the home maker’s ego was hurt they psychologically turned themselves against the concept of corn flake based breakfast. 

  5.   Kellogg corn Flakes have to be consumed with cold milk. Indians have be taught right from their childhood that milk has to be consumed every day and that milk should always be consumed hot. In a tropical country that is very logical. If the milk is bad once it is heated it will become undrinkable. So for the Indian family eating corn flakes with cold milk was unbearable. So hot milk was poured over the corn flakes. Once hot milk is poured the corn flakes become soggy and there are no longer tasty and edible.


  1. I remember my surprise being served cornflakes with hot milk in India in the mid 1980's. This helps explain why. Thanks.!

  2. Great David, Check out other blog entries. You could get some interesting stuff

  3. every one keeps talking about failed strategies of kellogs...but now it's doing well..even in 2010 it accounted for 70 % of ready to eat cereals market ..and the market is also going at 30 % CAGR. what is the rationale behind this growth and success. Will the fingers be pointed only on changing life style of people due to IT intervention in India or will the light be thrown on any other non mundane insights ?

  4. Good one Dhivya, My article talks about the pangs of entry and is quite dated. The point is your 70% of what? branded breakfast or the total breakfast market. I think it is the branded breakfast market. In the non generic breakfast market the the market share of Kellog's is not even a drop in the ocean.

  5. Hello Sir, after going through your blog entry entitled 'Superstition in India' highlighting how clever marketers have turned the disadvantage into favorable fields for themselves, I was intrigued enough to check your other blog entries. I m thoroughly contended to have come across this pleasant forum where complex marketing strategies are explained and segmented into digestible pieces of information. It will take me time to go about all your entries. A request, can u please pen down your thoughts on the marketing techniques employed by the mobile phone manufacturers with an emphasis on Apple's approach.

  6. Thank you Saumik. Yes you can find many interest. I have written about Indian mobile service providers. Check them out

    Best marketing practices of Indian Mobile service operators – Part I and II and Worst marketing practices of Indian Mobile service operators – Part I and II.

  7. Sir, can you elaborate on how and what they did to coome out of the situation after realising this folly?