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Why is there a chicken on the cornflakes box?


The image of a rooster on the Corn Flakes cereal box is one of the most iconic and recognizable packaging designs in history. But why is there a chicken on the box in the first place? The story behind the cornflakes rooster takes us back to the origins of the cereal itself.

In the late 19th century, the Kellogg brothers–Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and Will Keith Kellogg–developed corn flakes as a healthy, vegetarian breakfast option for patients at their sanitarium in Battle Creek, Michigan. The Kellogg brothers were Seventh-day Adventists and they followed a strict vegetarian diet as part of their faith. They experimented with different grains to make breakfast cereals and eventually happened upon corn flakes as a nutritious morning meal.

The rooster design first came about when Kellogg’s decided to expand distribution of corn flakes across the country. They launched the cereal nationally in 1906 and wanted packaging that would stand out on crowded store shelves. A colorful cartoon rooster was chosen as the mascot for the cereal box. Since chickens and roosters are commonly associated with mornings and breakfast, it made sense to feature the rooster on the package. The eye-catching design helped the new cereal become popular with customers.

So in essence, the rooster was used as an advertising gimmick to promote this new-fangled breakfast cereal called corn flakes. But there may have been a deeper meaning and motive behind using a rooster as well.

The Rooster as a Symbol of Health

In addition to being a breakfast mascot, the rooster fits with the healthy, wholesome image that the Kellogg brothers wanted for their cereal. In ancient mythology and culture, the rooster has long been seen as a symbol of health, restoration and renewal.

In Chinese and Japanese folklore, the rooster represents the restoration of yang energy and dispelling bad spirits. Rooster imagery and symbols were used in traditional medicine to promote health and healing. In Ancient Greek mythology, the rooster was associated with Asclepius, the god of medicine and healing. Asclepius was said to have two roosters on his staff representing vigilance and guarding against disease.

In the Bible, Jesus references chickens and roosters in talking about being watchful against evil. Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows just as Jesus predicted. This biblical reference casts the rooster in a noble light of morality and restoration.

So the Kellogg brothers likely chose the rooster to subconsciously send the message that corn flakes represent health, wholesomeness and rejuvenation. It was a fitting mascot for their breakfast cereal aimed at sanitarium patients. The rooster cemented corn flakes as a healthy way to start your morning.

The Rooster as a Symbol of Agriculture

On a simpler level, the rooster embodies agriculture–specifically farming and grain cultivation. The cereal was made from corn, a grain crop familiar to every American farmer. The rooster represented the agriculture industry and evoked a feeling of life on the farm.

In the early 20th century when corn flakes were launched, far more Americans lived on farms and could relate to the symbolic rooster. Having a rooster on the box connected corn flakes to the gritty, honest life of farming and harvesting grains.

So while urban consumers may have just seen a cute rooster cartoon, rural customers recognized the deeper meaning. The rooster linked corn flakes to crops, farms and agricultural living.

Roosters Connect to Rural Living

– Roosters are common livestock on farms and ranches
– Their crowing ushers in the dawn on rural homesteads
– Strong association between roosters and agriculture
– Seeing a rooster on corn flakes triggered thoughts of life on the farm

Roosters Represent Grain Harvests

– Cereal made from corn a major grain crop
– Farmer raising chickens would also grow corn
– Rooster mirrors corn as symbols of farming
– Reinforced corn flakes origins from grain agriculture

So while not overtly intended, the rooster linked corn flakes to rural living and the grain harvest. This advertising imagery romanticized farm life for city residents enjoying the new cereal.

The Famous Corn Flakes Rooster Through History

The iconic Corn Flakes rooster made its debut in 1907 on early cereal boxes. The rooster appeared in advertisements even before packaging. It was illustrated by talented commercial artist Henry E. Lester who helped develop Kellogg’s marketing.

Early versions of the rooster looked more realistic though somewhat cartoonish. It took on more humanized traits like wearing clothes, going on adventures and engaging in activities. The rooster became a memorable brand icon for Kellogg’s as they faced growing competition in the cereal aisle in the 1920s and 30s.

In the 1940s, the rooster took on a more stylized and cartoonish appearance. The friendlier image appealed to children who had become an important cereal market. Later versions showed the rooster in more modern situations and attire.

While the rooster’s look evolved over decades, it remained an integral part of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes branding. The rooster is still perched on the front of every Corn Flakes box today—a testament to its marketing power and appeal. He now sports a friendlier, simpler appearance.

Some notable rooster designs through the years include:

Year Design
1907 Realistic black and white rooster illustration.
1920s Rooster responds to prohibition wearing a sober nightshirt and nightcap.
1940s Simplified cartoon rooster in red, white and yellow.
1950s Rooster dresses up for new decade in sharp suit and glasses.
1980s Disco rooster gets down in bellbottoms and afro.
Today Contemporary rooster with friendly, vibrant colors.

Why the Corn Flakes Rooster Endures

The Corn Flakes rooster has become one of the longest-running and most memorable mascots of any product. There are several key reasons this iconic rooster has endured over 100+ years:

Familiar Symbol of Breakfast

As discussed earlier, roosters represent morning wake-up calls and breakfast. The rooster quickly formed a mental connection between corn flakes and starting your day. This classic symbolism still subconsciously signals breakfast time today.

Personified Character

Unlike abstract logos, the Corn Flakes rooster has a personality that people connect with. Consumers formed a quasi-relationship with this mascot who offered them tasty flakes each morning. The rooster has human qualities like wearing clothes, playing sports and engaging in hobbies over the years. His personified character builds loyalty.

Visual Differentiation on Shelves

The distinct red and yellow rooster pops against the sea of cereal boxes and allows Corn Flakes to stand out. The recognizable bird acted like a beacon guiding shoppers to Kellogg’s flakes. The eye-catching packaging design was critical in crowded stores.

Whimsical Cartoon Style

The cheerful, whimsical art style appeals to kids and gives the serious breakfast cereal some needed levity. The rooster acts both as a fun treat for children and wholesome symbol for parents. His animated design adds a playful spirit to the Corn Flakes experience.

Trustworthiness and Familiarity

Shoppers instinctively trust familiar faces. The rooster’s longevity over many decades establishes him as an old friend. His recognizable presence offers a comforting signal amid endless new products and choices. Consumers welcome the rooster as a constant they can rely on at breakfast.

Tradition and Nostalgia

For generations of cereal lovers, the Corn Flakes rooster stirs warm nostalgic feelings. It reminds them of fond breakfast memories from childhood. They want to pass along this tradition by buying the same cereal box they grew up loving. The rooster links to happy familial bonds.

Could Corn Flakes Survive Without the Rooster?

Given the beloved rooster’s entrenchment as part of the Corn Flakes experience, an interesting question arises—could the cereal still thrive without this famous mascot? Would people even recognize Corn Flakes without its trademark rooster?

The rooster is absolutely integral to Corn Flakes in the following ways:

  • Key visual identifier – The rooster’s striking colors and design allow instant brand recognition.
  • Mental link to breakfast – The symbolic rooster signals it’s time for morning cereal.
  • Whimsical appeal to kids – His friendly character and playfulness attracts children.
  • Tradition and nostalgia – The rooster builds multi-generational familiarity and loyalty.
  • Personified spokesman – As a character, he connects and speaks to customers.

However, it is possible Corn Flakes could survive without the iconic rooster in certain scenarios:

  • If the cereal was cheaper or healthier – People may buy it based on price or ingredients rather than branding.
  • With bigger brand endorsements – Celebrity sponsors or cross-promotions could draw attention.
  • By focusing on taste – Emphasizing the flakes’ delicious flavor over branding.
  • Leveraging nostalgia – Playing up the cereal’s long history and tradition.

But it would be extremely risky to remove such an established brand icon. The rooster’s equity and goodwill with consumers is difficult to recreate. He remains an instrumental part of the cereal’s identity and success after over 100 years. For most shoppers, Corn Flakes without its classic mascot would be unthinkable.

Conclusion

The Corn Flakes rooster is one of history’s most effective and endearing product mascots. This iconic bird represents everything from wholesome breakfast to rejuvenation to fond childhood memories. While originally an advertising gimmick, the rooster evolved to genuinely symbolize the Kellogg’s brand. His memorable presence on cereal boxes for over a century demonstrates the power of thoughtful design and character. The rooster shaped brand perception while delighting generations. His contributions explain why Corn Flakes occupies such a prominent spot in the cereal aisle to this day.