We Are Makers Of The Modern Web
The Cheerios Effect

The Cheerios Effect: The Science of Connections

About General Mills

General Mills, Inc. is an American Fortune 500 corporation, primarily concerned with food products and headquartered in the Minneapolis suburb of Golden Valley, Minnesota. The company markets many well-known North American brands, such as Betty Crocker, Yoplait, Colombo, Totino's, Pillsbury, Green Giant, Old El Paso, Häagen-Dazs, Cheerios, Trix, and Lucky Charms. Its brand portfolio includes more than 89 other leading U.S. brands and numerous category leaders around the world.

About Cossette Communication Inc.

Cossette is a Canadian marketing communications company that provides integrated communications services. Headquartered in Quebec City, the company has offices across Canada in Halifax, Quebec City, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver and a full-time staff of approximately 650 people.

Cossette was launched in May 1972 by Claude Lessard a recent Laval University graduate, along with five partners under the name Cossette Communication-Marketing in Quebec City. The company expanded to Montreal in 1974, opened in Toronto in 1981, and by 1985 added its fourth Canadian office in Vancouver.

Throughout these years Cossette’s reputation grew in Canada along with a client list made up of many leading brand names, including such companies as McDonald’s, General Motors, General Mills, Bank of Montreal, Procter & Gamble, and Nike, Inc.

The Story


Cossette Communication Inc reached out to Brushfire North with a unique idea for the Cheerios Master Brand campaign. They presented an interesting scientific phenomenon called The Cheerios Effect. It is the phenomenon whereby Cheerios tends to clump together or cling to the side of a bowl full of milk. Cossette wanted to use this phenomenon in a creative way to allow users to share stories of love and connection.

Grant Wilson, Brushfire North’s CTO attended an ideation meeting with the account and creative team assigned to this project. They pitched him an idea of creating icons out of Cheerios and animating these icons into stories told by users. Each icon would have several keywords assigned to them. For example an airplane made out of Cheerios could be tied to “vacation”, “fly”, “plane”, etc. Users could construct a story in 300 characters or less and icon representation of specific keywords could be animated on the screen in a bowl of Cheerios.

The initial concept idea was that all icon transitions would all have to be animated and have some common beginning and ending phase so all the animations could be stitched together in any order to form a cohesive story. After listening to the ideas Grant knew that we could utilize a lot of math and a little .NET and HTML 5 to create something really special for this campaign. He went back to the office from that meeting and constructed a basic proof of concept out of three icons made of Cheerios.

The result was an algorithmic framework that could take any icon and treat each individual cheerio as its own entity allowing them to move around to form any type of icon. After several iterations Brushfire North had a working prototype to show the creative team at Cossette. The result was astounding; the entire creative team was blown away. We knew at that point we could construct a product that would allow anyone to write any kind of story using any shapes made of Cheerios and they would be able to be animated in real time, without any off-line management or manipulation.

Armed with this knowledge the amazing creative team at Cossette made out like bandits constructing over one-hundred individual icons representing plants and animals, landmarks, food, actions, feelings and loaded them into a software program built by Brushfire North to turn the images into individual Cheerios with their coordinates in a bowl of milk plotted into a database. Through the same software program they were able to add bi-lingual keywords to each icon which would be captured in the users input.

During this process engineers at Brushfire North constructed the website using Microsoft .NET technologies and HTML 5 that allowed users to input their story of love or connection and preview their animation. Once the user was satisfied with their story they could submit it for community standard approval and after a short period of time (generally 24 hours or less) they could see and share their story of love and connection with the world.

The Result

The end result is The Cheerios Effect website which is the digital component of a multi-faceted national marketing campaign for Cheerios. Visit it today and submit your story of love and connection.