Avoid "mission statement creep" with the Cereal Box Exercise

By Steve Safran 

NPR's Patrick Cooper

I’m at the NPR/Knight Digital leadership summit (hashtag #nprpi) on the future of local news and public media this week, and there are lots of great ideas coming out of here. But one of the best I’ve heard came from NPR’s Eyder Peralta and Patrick Cooper. It’s “The Cereal Box Exercise.”

Simply put, The Cereal Box Exercise lets you envision your brand as though it were a box of cereal. When you’re shopping, there are lots of brands that you have to choose from. What makes you pick one over the other? These are the same questions people have when choosing a TV or radio station. We’re in the product business, after all. What’s wrong with taking a lesson from packaging.

What is The Cereal Box Exercise? In Cooper’s words, it’s “an arts and crafts project.” But it’s more than that – it allows you to envision your brand and your product in a new way without, as Cooper says, letting “missions statement creep” get in the way. I’ve read my share of mission statements, and they can be absolutely deadly. But if you’re limited to envisioning yourself as a box of cereal, you had better be interesting.

    Here’s how to do The Cereal Box Exercise:

1. Take a regular box of cereal.
2. Cover it with blank paper.
3. Start decorating it with your brand
4. Don’t be satisfied with just cutting and pasting your logo; have images and text that reflect your brand
5. Remember to make it exciting – you’re trying to sell your station!

Undertake The Cereal Box Exercise and you will learn more about what your team thinks of your station’s brand than you would in a dry mission statement exercise. By putting brand discussions into a new context, you’ll look at your brand through a new lens.

Here’s Ours: