|Leave the Cap’n Alone (Until He Can No Longer Sell Cereal)
By: Mike Zuckerman
This week, sources like Daily Finance have been writing about the rumored demise of Cap’n Crunch's long-time mascot, Cap'n Horatio Magellan Crunch, the face of Quaker Oats’ Cap’n Crunch cereal since 1963, along with his ads. And while these rumors have been subsequently proven false, debate over the continued viability of ol’ Horatio as an advertising pitchman rages on. But it shouldn’t…not from a purely marketing standpoint, at least.
Thanks to everyone who was asking about me! I was out on the high seas, but I'm back and not going anywhere!
This was the impromptu online confirmation of non-retirement, verbatim, that the Cap’n himself proffered on the front page of his website. So, not only is he not stepping out of the cereal aisle limelight and away from the television, he’s now fully equipped for his new life on the Internet with his better-late-than-never (and obviously perfunctory) Facebook (creation date? March 8, 2011) and Twitter (first post? March 9, 2011) pages. Way to go, Cap’n! Sadly, though, his reemergence into the zeitgeist has re-enflamed the debate over his present advertising desirability. As in, one group of folks sees him as nothing more than a familiar, comforting face from childhood who should live forever while another group sees him as a dangerous, sugar-peddling menace who should be discontinued immediately. Fortunately, anyone who has ever read anything I’ve written here previously (here and here, for example) knows how I feel about people taking personal responsibility (Cap’n Crunch isn’t causing your obesity...you are), so this POV certainly doesn’t merit another 600 words. Instead, I’m going to make a quick argument in the Cap’n’s favor based on something way more tangible than opinions, morals or freewill.
From a pure advertising standpoint, we should judge the Cap’n, as we would with any good salesman: by his numbers. According to data from Symphony Group/IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm, Cap’n Crunch ads generated $118.6 million in sales last year, down 6.8% from a year earlier (the overall cereal market was down 3.25% over the same period). Cap’n Crunch’s relative decline shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, as we are, as a nation, skewing slowly but surely towards health-consciousness, but roughly $120M in sales seems, to me, like a number Mitch and Murray at Premiere Properties would still deem Cadillac board-worthy. In other words, it seems like, as a cereal-peddler, the Cap’n still has something left in the tank, even if his character and ads are being steadily marginalized by a health push.
It doesn’t even matter which side of the morality argument you land on here, as there will always be a market for sugar-crack à la Cap’n Crunch. In light of this realization, of course you don’t get rid of the Cap’n. His ads sell (literal) boatloads of cereal and judging by the outpouring of support on his Facebook page, he is, in no small part, responsible for a bunch of the sales via nostalgia alone. So, until he proves he can no longer get the job done, just let him do his thing. I think he's earned the right.
Mike Zuckerman is a copywriter who enjoys quiet, clean, country living in the heart of Los Angeles. Email him here.
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