Ironically, the first Betty Crocker was Samuel Gale, an advertising executive, who invented the handle in 1921 so he wouldn't have to sign his own name on letters to women seeking baking advice, according to "Finding Betty Crocker: The Secret Life of America's First Lady of Food," by Susan Marks. He chose "Betty" because it sounded cheery, wholesome and folksy, and "Crocker" in honor of William G. Crocker, a retired and much loved director of Washburn Crosby (now General Mills). It wasn't long before Betty grew into a full-blown persona: "a woman who could field questions about a marriage that had gone flat or a bread that refused to rise." Most consumers believed she existed (some still do today); she has even received marriage proposals from male fans looking for the perfect homemaker.
Although other food companies jumped on the bandwagon with branded spokeswomen — including Mary Alden touting Quaker Enriched Flour, Kay Kellogg for Kellogg cereals and Ann Page for A&P stores — they never endeared themselves to consumers as Betty did.
Keeping a brand contemporary is a continuing challenge for General Mills. "Betty Crocker is constantly monitoring consumer needs and stretching for newer and better ways to deliver value to our consumers to meet their ever changing needs," explains Becker. "Be it improvements or new flavors of our existing products such as Betty Crocker SuperMoist cake or Specialty Potatoes, or innovative products such as our new Warm Delights microwave dessert bowls, we're always looking for ways to keep our products relevant for today's consumer."
Why is Betty Crocker still a viable brand? No. 4 in Advertising Age's Top Brands, Betty's identity is aligned with the characteristics of helpfulness, trustworthiness and quality. The products she represents change to accommodate women's current needs, and her makeovers reflect the women of each era.
In 1936, Betty's official portrait was unveiled. She was the perfect composite of the early 20th century American woman, "a fine Nordic brow and shape of skull, a jaw of slightly Slavic resolution, Irish eyes and classic Roman nose." Her latest incarnation in 1996, reflected in a portrait by John Stuart Ingle, is culled from a computer-generated image of 75 diverse women. Reflecting some Latina roots, Betty is self-assured, intelligent, approachable, friendly – a youthful-looking woman who can do it all, have a career, raise a family, and bake a scrumptious cake for dessert with no problem. She is the American woman.
|The concept of condensed soups became so popular so quickly that in 1922, Campbell's formally adopted "Soup" as its middle name.
M'm! M'm! Good!
Campbell Soup Co., Camden, N.J., recently was awarded the Grocery Manufacturers Assn.'s CPG award for its superior innovation, creativity and industry collaboration in driving center-store sales and profits with its many brands. Those are precisely the characteristics that have driven Campbell Soup for 136 years.
Campbell, which can claim to be one of the originators of convenience, masterfully nurtures the idea that "soup is good food." Its success can be measured. An average of eight cans are found in every household, and Campbell's soup is purchased more often than any other product in supermarkets nationally — some 70 cans every second.
"Our brands have leadership positions [in the marketplace] — they are known and cherished by consumers and are part of their daily lives," explains John Faulkner, director of brand communications.
Campbell's began with a simple handshake in 1869 between fruit merchant Joseph Campbell and an icebox manufacturer named Abraham Anderson. Their new business produced canned tomatoes, vegetables, jellies, soups, condiments and minced meats. In 1897, general manager Arthur Dorrance reluctantly hired his 24-year-old nephew, Dr. John Dorrance, a chemist so determined to be hired he agreed to pay for laboratory equipment out of his own pocket and accept a token salary of just $7.50 per week. Dr. Dorrance quickly made his mark on history with the invention of condensed soup. By eliminating the water in canned soup, he lowered the costs for packaging, shipping, and storage. A 10-oz. can of Campbell's condensed soup sold for a dime, vs. more than 30 cents for a 32-oz. can of soup. The five original varieties were Tomato, Consommé, Vegetable, Chicken and Oxtail. So popular was the concept of condensed soups, that in 1922, the company formally adopted "Soup" as its middle name.
Advertising helped trumpet the benefits of soup to consumers and contributed to Campbell's success, and the company remains one of the leading advertisers in the U.S. In 1904, the cherubic Campbell Kids were introduced in a series of trolley car advertisements as a way to appeal to working mothers. Sales increased 100 percent. The first magazine print ad boasted 21 varieties, each selling for a dime. Campbell's strategy was to advertise primarily in magazines, insisting that its ads be "the first advertisement following said text, on a right hand page facing a full page of text." This strategy was so successful that this advertising location is still known as the "Campbell's soup position." In the ‘30s, Campbell entered into radio sponsorship and TV, using the familiar "M'm! M'm! Good!" jingle to captivate listeners. It still does.
"We nurture our brands by supporting our brands," says Faulkner. "Brands must continually be made relevant to consumers – through promotion, advertising and innovation."
Of course, Campbell's has evolved to fit a changing marketplace. The Campbell name stretches to China, Australia, Argentina and elsewhere, and its products are available in practically every country in the world, including regional varieties like Watercress and Duck-Gizzard Soup in China and a Cream of Chili Poblano soup in Mexico.