m+ in the News: General Mills Takes to TikTok

As a leading source of strategic thinking in the evolving space of digital media, Media+ has helped brands enter (and master) nascent platforms for decades. In a recent interview with Digiday, Media+ Vice President Katrina Stroh was asked for her take on cereal giant General Mills’ entry into the musical waters of TikTok.


Why General Mills hopes music will help it have a viral marketing moment on TikTok
by Kimeko McCoy, September 15, 2023

As cultural moments increasingly stem from TikTok, General Mills’ Monsters Cereal brand hopes new, electronic dance music will help it go viral.

Ahead of Halloween, the 52-year-old cereal brand is launching Carmella Creeper, a new zombie DJ and face of Carmella Creeper cereal that’s caramel apple flavored, with her own verified TikTok account featuring the single “Monster Mash Remix.”

The song is also available on all major streaming platforms, including Spotify, Apple Music and YouTube. So far, there has been teasers of the new character with a full release slated for around Halloween. The hope, according to Mindy Murray, brand experience director for cereal and yogurt at General Mills, is that TikTokers use the song in their own content, expanding its reach even perhaps to mainstream radio.

Instead of splicing up a 15-30 second video ad and posting it to social media, General Mills is starting more of its campaigns, including its latest Monsters Cereal campaign, with the focus on TikTok and then building that content out on other digital channels, per Murray. Her hypothesis is the company will get better work that connects with culture with the potential for better reach.

“That’s the idea. Keep in mind it’s seasonal and it’s a modest budget. How do you take something that’s small on paper, but we want it to be big and culture?, Oh, well TikTok” she said, without detailing the exact budget. “We’re trying to reverse the [marketing] funnel a bit so that we’re appealing to people in the right places.” 

General Mills’ move is consistent with that of other brands and agencies prioritizing TikTok content creation over its rivals. The shift to a TikTok-first approach has been steadily growing for the last three to six months, according to Katrina Stroh, vice president at Media+ media agency.

“The reasons are most likely related to the user-generated type [of] creative blurring the lines between advertising and content,” Stroh said in an email. “And secondly, its vertical format as more and more social ad models cater to this format in an effort to maximize the full mobile screen.”

The cereal brand’s perusal of TikTok comes as TikTok has been slowly creeping up as a competitor to music streaming services like Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube. The platform has helped to spur the music careers of artists like ​​Ashnikko and Lil Nas X. Earlier this year, the company was reportedly testing exclusive deals with musicians.

In recent years, the General Mills’ cereal category has invested in digital advertising, spending around 60% of its ad dollars on digital, up from 20% a few years ago. Simultaneously, General Mills’ cereal brands currently shell out 40% of its ad spend on linear television, down from the 80% it was spending a few years ago, per Murray. From January to May of this year, the company spent nearly $260 million on media, according to Vivvix, including paid social data from Pathmatics. In total last year, the company spent more than $495 million, down from the $615 million spent in 2021. 

This isn’t the first time Monsters Cereals has dabbled in music marketing. Back in 2021, the company partnered with creative agency Anomaly for the initial Monster Mash song, in which the Monster Cereal character voices recreated the original Monster Mash song from the 1960s. This year, however, General Mills’ Monster Cereal expanded those efforts, taking the song in-house through its brand experience team and working with external partners for song production, PR, packaging and social. Edelman executed the PR and song production itself. 

The cereal brand isn’t alone in its music marketing efforts. More marketers are looking to strengthen relationships with consumers by way of music partnerships and remixes. For example, Lactaid, lactose-free dairy products, recently partnered with singer-songwriter Kelis to create “It’s Dairy!” — the brand’s take on her original song “Milkshake.” It’s also working with TikTok influencers, like Dimitri Beauchamp and Phil Wright, to boost awareness. Meanwhile, Coca-Cola believes in music in ads so much that it built its own studio to record original songs. 

“Coca-Cola along with a handful of other brands are on to something — and at the helm of a trend — when it comes to recording original music for a campaign,” Jarred Causly, senior music supervisor at Saatchi & Saatchi ad agency, said in an email. “Creating music unique to a brand drives brand identity, affinity, originality and most importantly it creates connection to the community.”

It’s the early days of the Monsters Cereal activation, which only has music rights through the end of the Halloween season, but Murray is open to the idea of more music marketing in the future.

“Music and Halloween work and we like it a lot — I could see us continuing to nurture this,” she said.

Read the full Digiday article here.

more insights