Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Betty Crocker - "just add an egg"

Betty Crocker is a brand of instant cake/brownie/etc mixes that provide a pretty tasty treat with minimal effort, and it can be found in most supermarkets of note in the western world.


Life for "Betty" started life in 1921 as an invented persona for replies to customer queries to the US food company general mills. The name Betty Crocker gave the more personal, soft touch that a CEO or directors couldn’t. The name was later adapted to a series of cookbooks released by the American food giant in the 40s.
By 1945 Betty Crocker was voted the 2nd most famous woman in the United States by the business magazine Fortune, second only to Eleanor Roosevelt. On the back of this fame the General Mills company decided that they would do some market research into creating a range of “Betty Crocker mixes”, after much research they decided that customers were sufficiently enthusiastic for this convenient product, and they marketed it on the basis that all the customer needed to do was add a little water, mix, and then you had yourself a cake.
When they were released in the early 1950s…nobody bought them, despite the fact the customers had said that they were all for it, they just weren’t going out and buying the product!

In desperation General Mills decided that they would try the emerging concept of product focus groups, which looked not at what the product should look like, or feel like, but focused on what the product meant to the customer. Through this they discovered that the housewife of the 1950’s felt decidedly guilty about using these products as it was too easy, and almost tantamount to cheating. So the marketing team behind the product line set about changing these attitudes towards the product. They re-launched the product a few months later, however now with very slightly altered ingredients.
The stroke of genius they had come up with was to remove the powdered egg and instruct the housewives to whisk in an egg. The process of going to the shop, choosing out the egg, bringing it home and whisking it in to the mix, involved the customer sufficiently so that they no longer felt the guilt they had associated with the product before.
The case of Betty Crocker points out two pretty simple marketing concepts
  1. What the product MEANS is as important as what the product looks, feels, smells like
  2. Involving the customer to a greater extent gives them a greater feeling of ownership/loyalty (just look at web2.0 site vs that of web 1.0 the loyalty and usage rates are way higher, all due to involvement)

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

http://www.snopes.com/business/genius/cakemix.asp

The emotional involvement in doing more work directly correlates with satisfaction (i.e. the more you slave for that Cornell degree, the prouder you are of it). Snopes still makes a good point that the powdered egg made for inferior product.

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