Melvin the Elephant: Kellogg’s in Translation

Melvin the elephantMost of us are familiar with Kellogg’s breakfast cereal mascots – after all, we grew up on them. Some of the most prominent ones are the elves, Snap, Crackle and Pop, who accompany Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies. It wasn’t always that way, and that’s due to the simple fact that brands evolve with time.

What’s interesting, though, is that one singular brand can evolve differently in various parts of the world. Did you know that the chocolate-flavored Latin American counterpart to Snap, Crackle and Pop is an elephant named Melvin? Let’s take a closer look at Kellogg’s.

The Trajectory of Mascots

Snap, Crackle and Pop, the first and longest lasting breakfast cereal representatives, have always been the mascots who stood behind Rice Krispies. Snap was the first in 1933, and Crackle and Pop came soon after.

Cocoa Krispies has a bit of a different history, represented largely by jungle animals. Here’s a closer look at a few of these in particular.

  • From 1958-1969, a monkey named Jose who wore a straw hat and a bandana pioneered the Cocoa Krispies line of mascots.
  • Coco the elephant replaced Jose from 1960-1962. He, too, wore a straw hat.
  • Check out this goofy little advertisement from the 1970s, featuring Tusk the elephant. Tusk lasted from 1971-1981, and had different accessories – he wore glasses and was something of an intellectual.
  • Snap, Crackle and Pop replaced the series of animals in 1981 as the Cocoa Krispies mascots that we know and love – in the USA, at least.

Repurposed History: Melvin the Elephant

The 1950s were some of the most important years in the brand’s histories. They saw the pioneering of the first iteration of Cocoa Krispies, as well as the first time that Kellogg’s was expanded internationally to reach Mexico.

Between all the monkeys and elephants, and even a cameo from Snagglepuss the lion, it’s no surprise that jungle animals remain the theme in other countries for Cocoa Krispies. In fact, an elephant named Melvin, who appeared in Mexico in 1989, is the face of the Latin American version of Cocoa Krispies – Choco Krispis.

Melvin actually has a number of iterations that appear in Spanish-language advertisements. He’s pretty strong – after all, he’s an elephant – and he has gone into space, explored in caves, and even plays soccer (or, more regionally, fútbol).

Teachings From Cross-Culturally Divergent Mascots

Okay, so what’s the point of all this breakfast cereal mascot deconstruction? Believe it or not, there are some valuable messages to be gleaned from examining cross-cultural marketing approaches, namely that you need to think out of the box and approach your strategy from a different angle when you’re working internationally.

What’s important about Kellogg’s is that the company does the research that will internationally target young people, and that means some variety when it comes to branding all over the world. With sugary breakfast cereal, that’s obviously not a difficult task, but there’s some special care that goes into developing mascots. After all, those of us who frequently ate breakfast cereal as kids often have a certain amount of affection for our favorite cereal mascots. They appear on TV to cheer you on and help you out, they’re all about fun and games, and they love going on adventures and playing with kids.

Internationally, Kellogg’s does not only target kids with marketing, but also does a lot of work in improving healthcare and education for kids and families. It’s the family-friendly approach to marketing with an ethical spin that gets us invested in a brand, whether our ties are to elves or elephants.

What brand mascots do you still connect with? Which ones missed the mark for you?

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Tree

Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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