Special K was a staple at the Pneumaticos household in the 70’s and 80’s. It was less chewy than Corn Flakes, less sugary than Rice Krispies, and my mom bought into the idea that it helped women lose weight. My brother and I tried and tried to get her to buy Honey Comb or Sugar Crisp instead, but I grew to enjoy it anyway.
Special K’s brand identity, with the red and white colours, and the huge signature Kellogg’s K, is recognisable all over the world. It’s so strong, that most people can figure out they’re watching a Special K ad as soon as an attractive woman-next-door wearing a red swimsuit or LRD (Little Red Dress) appears on the screen. They don’t even need to see the K.
Its positioning (in my words) was “eat Special K cereal and low-fat milk every day, feel great and look hot.” However, the brand has stretched in all sorts of directions. Check out the screenshot of all the categories Special K products compete in:
Is this just a cereal brand trying to stretch in every direction their customers will allow them? Do people really get that Special K rice and wheat flavour in a protein shake? As I tried my first Special K with chocolate this morning (my son made me buy it; the taste was disappointing but he loved it) I decided to figure it out with a little web research.
The answer lies in the Special K challenge. This diet challenge used to consist of the advice: eat Special K with skim milk for breakfast, again for lunch or dinner, and have a balanced non-Special-K based other meal every day for two weeks. After two weeks, you should drop two sizes (or lose 6 pounds). You can measure your belly with some red-coloured Special K measuring tape.
In 2010 the instructions for the Special K Challenge are as follows:
And suddenly I realized. Special K doesn’t want to be a cereal brand. Special K wants to be a weight loss brand, competing with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig. They offer “indulgences you can feel good about” without having to sign up officially like you do with the competition.
I’m sure there are a few aficionados who are aware what the whole Special K meal plan is about. For most people this is a cereal brand. When they launch the Special K-Italia Pizza line next year, followed by a Special Kyriakos Gyros line a year later, it will continue to confuse the hecK out of people.