The reinvention of Dorset Cereals is a legend in modern marketing. It’s hard to believe that in 2005 here was a muesli that was packaged in insipid plastic bags and largely bought by health-conscious grannies.
The cereal used expensive ingredients and tasted good but it wasn’t reaching the mass market. Chairman Peter Farquar had his eureka moment when he decided to ship in some equity investment and the branding expertise of hot shot creative agency Big Fish. The rest is history. We’ve all seen the cute VW Camper Vans and the winsome Gypsy Caravan and 1.6 million of us have proudly displayed a box of Dorset Cereals on our kitchen table. Like an array of uber-cool paint colours, the boxes were designed to blend in with the Farrow & Ball kitchens du jour. Suddenly middle class mothers were reaching for boxes of newly cool muesli like homing pigeons.
Dorset Cereals head of communications Mandy Cooper says: “In 2005 we were the little people, up against huge brands like Kelloggs. We didn’t have a big marketing budget so we thought ‘how do we do things differently?’’ Instead the company came up with a campaign which focused on the simple pleasures of life. Cooper says:’We were saying it’s not all about buying the big car or the big house but kicking back and enjoying the smaller pleasures. Our ethos just struck a chord with people.’ The head office in Poundbury is full of people who have decided to do just that, leaving the big city rat race for a calmer life close to the sea. Internally, the laid back lifestyle that is at the core of the brand became known as 'doing a Dorset.' Back in 2006 Dorset Cereals also cannily decided to build its online database using a combination of wholesome blogging and regular competitions (those camper vans, that gypsy caravan) which people actually wanted to win. Now it was becoming a brand which represented the bucolic, quirky and down to earth side of Dorset, a cereal which had developed its own personality. Cooper adds: ‘We were fortunate that this was the moment when the internet exploded and the website became the heart of our brand.’ Half a million people now log on to play Pleasure Hunt or Spin the Bottle and the cereal is a favourite with everyone from those waist-line watching grannies to kids who fantasise about camping trips. This summer Dorset Cereals sent a clutch of university graduates off on road trips, driving the camper vans to festivals, handing out cereal samples and preaching its message to a hip, young crowd.
Muesli is no longer seen as the preserve of lentil-chomping sandal wearers and it's largely down to the progressive marketing of the Dorset Cereals brand. As Cooper says: 'We made muesli trendy.'