How A Box of Knock-Off Grape Nuts Taught Me About Relevance (And The Internet!)

“Can Your Breakfast Cereal Teach You Anything?”

We are a single income family of seven, so it is no wonder that we buy the cheap stuff. One purchase, a box of store brand Grape Nuts, not only was good for our budget, but it also, proved to be very educational. 

The back of it said, “The Internet and How It Works.” It went on to explain such unfamiliar terms as “email” and “emoticons” and “HTML”.  My children and I read every word (and I totally regret in the telling of this story that I didn’t get a good enough photograph so you could see all of its glory.)

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We mocked this. We mocked it over and over. What was the most fun, however was seeing my 12 year old son hold his head and shake in mirth. It was hilarious. “I didn’t know this!” He wiped the tears away. I could understand his perplexity. He was born as a result of his parents meeting on America Online back when they had to explain email to people.

We asked ourselves. Just how old is this box of cereal anyway? Does Market Basket sell boxes from 1994?  Where’s the nutritional pyramid or the advocations of a cartoon animal wearing clothes encouraging us to get exercise and eat right? Why this?

Was it a marketing department’s modern solution to the prize at the bottom of the box? (Kids love the Internets!) Have you been to a Market Basket lately? They’re not exactly bastions of modernity.) But then I realized that maybe the problem wasn’t the cereal box, maybe the problem was us.

Then it hit me. The Market Basket people think we’re 70. Who else buys Grape Nuts? Most families like us buy either brand name sugar cereal or designer organic gluten free vegan pops from Whole Foods. Who buys generic grape nuts?  The retired?  People who may have a keen interest in fiber? People who don’t get on the Internet!

“How Do I Educate My Senior Parents About The Internet? Maybe I Should Buy Them Cereal.”

I get it now. The poor misunderstood designers of this cereal box are trying to educate the generation of people who neither need the internet nor care about it. They’re trying to make changes. They’re trying to get my parents to jump on Twitter. (#itwillneverhappen)

I wondered if future boxes would explain Tumblr or the necessity of Google+? Would the fake Cheerios tell us how to monetize Goodreads? Puffed rice would instruct us when the best time of day to pin stuff on Pinterest?

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 The back of cereal boxes could, be, if we really wanted to stretch it, kind of Wikipedia for the older set. They could get more information on important topics, like How Not To Alienate Your Adult Children and  You Lived Mad Men, You Don’t Need To Watch It.  Put This Box Aside And Talk To Your Spouse of Forty Years; You Never Know, One of You Could Be Dead Tomorrow.

 What I thought was just a dumb idea, was in fact a brilliant one. The designers of this box are  trying to tap into a untapped audience. Instead of mocking them, I should be following their example.

“What’s next? Instructions for my Smart Phone On The Back of TV Guide?”

Just because it’s relevant to me, doesn’t mean it’s relevant to others. I put a lot of thought into Twitter on a daily basis. I blog. (Obviously) Social media/the Internets is always at the front of my mind. When I crawl out of my cave to talk to people in real life, sometimes I wonder why they haven’t interviewed writers in New Zealand or chatted with a BFF in the UK. What are they missing? Apparently, there are a lot of people who have happy, fulfilled lives without ever writing a tweet. I need to appreciate this. Not scratch my head in bafflement.

Just because it’s irrelevant to me, doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to others. I don’t need to know exactly how the internet works (We all know it’s the LOLCats running in little treadmills.) But I suppose that there are plenty of people out there who really don’t know and want to know. Who really don’t know what it means when I say I DMed my friend in Ohio or am charging my Macbook Air or got repinned for the 800th time on that cake recipe and yet nothing on my writing stuff. If you read the back of a cereal box (which probably has more staying power than a copy of Reader’s Digest) to understand these things, then great! This is unintrusive. You don’t look stupid by asking your grandchildren. You are empowered just a little more. Instead of thumbing my nose at it, I should be applauding.

The creators of this appear to have figured out where to go to meet the needs of their core consumer. Am I thinking so outside of the box? (Or rather, on the back side of it?)

“Sigh. Market Basket Has It’s Own Troubles Now Without Educating Gray Haired Seniors On The Intricacies of HTML.”

My apologies to you, Market Basket, for your daring public service on the back of your cereal box. Let’s hope that an entire generation of seniors (or at least Grape Nuts lovers) have their world expanded because of the happy wink. 🙂

About Katharine Grubb

Katharine Grubb has mastered the art of freewriting because she wrote her first novel in 10 minute increments. There are probably easier ways to write a book, but with homeschooling her five children, she’ll take what she can get. Her latest book, Write A Novel In 10 Minutes A Day was just released and is available on Amazon.com She lives in Massachusetts and blogs at www.10minutenovelists.com.

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