General Mills initiated a multifaceted PR campaign with the hashtag #BringBacktheBees that they hope will boost declining sales and save honeybee populations at the same time.
In case you have not noticed, BuzzBee, the Honey Nut Cheerios mascot has gone missing. He has been replaced by a white silhouette on the box. The packaging change is a marketing plan aimed at increasing awareness of the worldwide decline in honeybee populations.
As Time reports, “Population levels of more than 700 North American bee species are declining [due to] habitat loss and pesticide use.”
Of those 700 species, 350 are on the verge of extinction.
The reason this is so important is that honeybees are prolific pollinators. According to Greenpeace, about one-third of the food that we eat is thanks to honeybee pollination. Honeybees not only pollinate our food, but they are also responsible for pollinating other types of non-edible vegetation. All plants convert carbon dioxide from the air into oxygen. Without plants, CO2 levels would be out of control.
Honeybees contribute directly to our food and air supplies, two of the four things we need to survive. Therefore, their importance and their plight cannot be ignored.
General Mills’ honeybee campaign seems to recognize that. In addition to removing BuzzBee from its packaging, the company has come together with Veseys Seeds to offer consumers wildflower seeds free of charge. According to PR Newswire, Cheerios marketing director Susanne Prucha described the effort in a statement given last week.
“As a General Mills cereal built around nutrition, helping pollinators get the key nutrition they need through fun, family-friendly activities like planting wildflowers is a natural fit.”
She also notes that the company has donated more than $4 million over the last six years to the Xerces Society, a conservation group focused on the honeybee colony collapse.
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Information on how to claim the free seeds appears on boxes of Honey Nut Cheerios next to BuzzBee’s outline, but no purchase is necessary to receive some seeds. The company set up a website that only requires you to fill out shipping information to get the wildflower seeds in the mail. That is not all the company is doing about the problem, however.
General Mills has approximately 60,000 acres of farmland devoted to growing oats. Prucha said that by the year 2020, they plan to have converted 3,300 acres into honeybee habitats. The company appears to be serious about this issue, but could there be more to it than that?
General Mills, like any other company, does not invest money and resources without the expectation of a return.
According to TheStreet, sales for the 2016 fiscal year, which ended in February, are down by 4 percent and “overall retail net sales fell 8%.”
Due to extremely high competition in the cereal industry, General Mills had cut back on marketing. However, the industry as a whole seems to be in a slump.
“According to Nielsen data, sales of ready-to-eat cereals fell 1.7% for the year ended Feb. 25 to about $8.64 billion, while unit sales during the same period were down 3% to about $2.66 billion. Adult cereals fared the worst, with sales down 3.2% to $2.58 billion and units down 4.6% to $749 million.”
While General Mills had no comment regarding this data, one can assume that the overall decline in cereal sales marks a prime opportunity to launch a marketing campaign. What better way to promote Honey Nut Cheerios than using the honeybee crisis to take BuzzBee hostage and offering free wildflower seed for people to plant for his safe return.
Well, it sounds bad when put that way, but if General Mills #BringBacktheBees campaign can increase awareness of the honeybee population crisis while getting people to plant more flowers and boost cereal sales, then it is a win-win-win situation.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]