A number of smiling women run lightly past the camera, through a wooden farm gate into a field of yellow grain. The sun is shining and the women are dressed in summery clothes: a red sun dress, a red and white striped t-shirt, a red headband, a white cotton dress with red flowers, a fedora with red band, a red button-up shirt. The music drips with contemporary folk pop nostalgia.*
After two or three seconds, I turned to my partner and said, “I bet this is Special K.”
And so it was. The women make their way through the grain (a hand strokes the grass), a vineyard (a laughing woman steals a grape) and an orchard (two smiling women crunch on red apples), before bringing their “harvest” into a barn artfully back-lit by bright sunshine. The group then sits down together at an outdoor table to feast on nature’s bounty in the form of some cereal from a box.
The voiceover tells us that Special K is “opening up the world of granola”. What on earth does that mean? Well, this granola has “thirty percent less fat” (than what? I can’t read the tiny print), so people can now “feel free to enjoy” their cereal. Is the ad making the point that we live in a dystopian world that polices our enjoyment of granola? Not deliberately, I'm sure. I think they're speaking to their target audience: people who aspire to look like the happy, active, social and wholesome women models in the ad (who are all able bodied, skinny, well groomed and mostly white).
Sarcasm aside, my almost-instant recognition that this was an ad for Special K piqued my interest. It reminded me that Special K has outgrown its original place as a minor runner in the Kellogg brand stable to become a super-sub-brand of its own.
Special K’s visual identity comes through in this ad partly in its cast of conventionally attractive, slim women (target audience’s desired outcome) and red clothing (brand colour), but there’s more to it than that. Brandhouse offers an insight into the visual evolution of the Special K logo:
The globally-recognised brand icon – the K, was subtly evolved to be more modern and was made to represent ‘confidence’ with the addition of a small shadow, making it appear to stand up and confidently lean forward. A background suggesting sparkling morning sunshine adds more colour to the brand to move it on from being overly white – changing the weight management game from the visual language of depletion, to the language of positive inspiration.
The use of multiple actors also reflects Special K’s recent use of social, interactive elements in its marketing. If you don’t remember their two-week challenge, you can easily check out the “My Special K” section of their website. This is a diet/fitness resource where members can not only log food consumption, track their exercise and get “personalised info . . . to keep you on the right track” but are encouraged to “invite your friends” and “share your meal plan” – because “a healthy lifestyle gets easier with your supportive friends cheering you on”.**
So, social dieting is Special K's thing, I guess: no longer is a woman laughing alone with salad, women are now laughing together with granola.
** Of course, the real reason Special K wants us to share is that the diet industry is invested in making you and me and all our friends and acquaintances feel like we’re always deficient, always failing to reach a certain standard of being – whether that standard is the attractiveness of the models used in their ads or an “ideal weight” their plans can help you decide upon. They want everyone to feel we have to “do more”, so we buy more diet food – or, in other cases, more gym memberships, more body-sculpting clothes, more quackery, more fitness apps or more surgeries.