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Nov 20, 2020    Burn Book

The Fruitcake is Ready, Ron


Just earlier this week, we wrote about the phenomenon of 2020: how a brand is to be heard by their target audiences when everyone’s primary emotion is uncertainty. We mentioned going back to the basics and remembering the root of marketing: trading goods and services between humans, emotionally authentic handshake deals in town squares.

And lo, what do we come to find this week but a piece by the American Marketing Association about how brands, primarily those with a hand in cooking (chef influencers, health gurus, cookware, foodstuffs), have returned to an old, basic, familiar staple: branded food recipes. Alright, alright, they did write that in October but we promise we didn’t find it until today. No mooching here at Rock Candy Media in Austin, that sounds incredibly boring.

Basically, that article featured some vintage looking magazine cutout recipes that homemakers definitely used to keep handy. It spoke to how a recipe using a specific branded ingredient — “It’s not pineapple upside down cake if it’s not with Dole!” — built loyalty and trust between brand and buyer. It also begins to break down why this exact tactic is being used again in 2020 with more people cooking at home, needing activities, and wanting comfort food.

Cool. Basics. Classics. We like.

But how can this be translated for the brands of all other industries? In fact, can it? The short answer is yes. Here’s how.

This branded recipe tactic is, at its core, nothing more than a brand knowing what its consumer wants in a year like 2020: ease, familiarity, distraction, a break from the crushing uncertainty. Any brand and industry can find their road in with a little help from a top marketing agency like us, and it doesn’t have to ring any ‘50s bells as a nostalgia play, either.

Take a tile brand for example (maybe one like our client, Mercury Mosaics). To market in this industry in 2020 is not to boast how darling a new kitchen backsplash will look for the family at their classic Thanksgiving. This is likely to churn up unwanted emotions in the target audience (fear of disease, tragedy, stress, homesickness, worry, uncertainty). Rather, it may be to refinish that untouched spare room– for with a new brightness and color and vibrancy through an added, handcrafted tile design, it just became the new craft studio, music room, or movie projector room. Being stuck at home, even eight months in a row, doesn’t mean there aren’t still fun and new things to do.

For another example, let’s look at a hard one: cybersecurity. How is a cold, professional, trusted, likely blue-branded cybersecurity brand to emotionally reach the 2020 crowd? It’s not by airing commercials about sleek, new features and impressive integrations. It might be, rather, by spreading a handy dandy free guide to keeping all device users safe when connecting to each other so often for Zoom dinners, group-stream movies, and more. A brand in 2020 must focus, in short, not on what consumers can get out of adopting them, but on the uncertainty-emotion-diminishing ability of some part of your brand. A bit of a mouthful, but able to be done.

I personally do not want any green bean casserole.

And you’ll see some brands doing this already. It may be an Apple Watch ad that tells a working from home dad that he can still keep track of a new fitness routine while at home. Meanwhile we see a heartfelt image of the dad doing squats while holding his baby. Or it might be an Amazon ad release that is just a thank-you to delivery drivers in full PPE. (Though we would argue Amazon missed the mark with that one — to a brand marketing strategy team it’s obviously a shallow public thank you to drivers to cover up the fact that they haven’t started paying anyone more money even though they must work in now life-threatening situations… Even big brands wave off the importance of authenticity.)

Anyways, the marketing classics and basics are there still for a reason, and one brand’s fresh take on it might be their saving grace in this year of business mortality. It doesn’t have to be pineapple upside down cake or green bean casserole, but it does have to speak to people who have had a hell of a year.

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