How might we better understand the meaning of sexy?

Inspirational Insight | Market Foresight | Future-proof Innovation


In 2017 Special K sales were down £3.1m (17.6%) and something needed to change


The Challenge

Diet-led messaging no longer resonates with consumers. Diet brands as a result are in decline. Unless businesses can navigate a changing cultural landscape, consumer perceptions of their brands can quickly shift from hero to villain. This can have catastrophic financial results.

Kellogg’s Special K brand was in need of transformation. The brand question of whether you can ‘pinch more than an inch’ was no longer appropriate. The team needed insight into what messaging would resonate with its core modern audience. They wanted to reclaim their strong market position.


The Outcomes

The product was still good. There was no need to re-engineer that. It simply needed reframing to keep it relevant with changing cultural trends. We discovered a new platform on which Kellogg’s could innovate and build the business. The Sense Network laid out a robust message with which the brand could engage consumers.


The Result

Within 9 months of relaunching the Special K brand sales had bounced back. Tracy Murphy, Senior Marketing Director of Balance and Health said “We have experienced six months of growth on the core products Special K Original and Special K Red Berries. And to build on that we have recorded three months of growth on the brand as a whole”. Sexy sells.

Our Approach

The red swimsuit portrayed in decades of advertising had built equity for the brand around the aspiration of sexiness. However, in an age of fat-shaming, gender politics and blurring identities; we asked the question “What is sexy?”

For a product with such a broad consumer base, we would need to go to the edges of culture to define and test a new contemporary definition of sexy.


How The Sense Network Helped

We assembled a group of 24 misfits, outliers and rebels from The Sense Network; all of whom felt under-represented in modern branding. They included a Mormon-born belly dancer, a guy who has worn makeup for over 30 years and an actress who enjoys swinger parties. Together we collaborated to strip back stereotypes and preconceived notions of sexy. Combining the diversity of their life experience, predicaments and expert knowledge we established a comprehensive, foundational understanding of sexy.

Stories and cultural examples from The Sense Network made it clear for the team that sexy is all about what’s inside. The red swimsuit of old was out and what was in was “keeping it real, being natural and not trying to fake it”.


This is fricking awesome! Exactly what we are after! Thank you for such a quick turnaround and for such brilliant outputs.
 This is an excellent piece of work.

Head of Strategy, BBH/ZAG


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