What I Learned About Marketing From a Recipe on a Box

Box of GrainsA couple of years ago, I was reading about the health benefits of barley.  So I decided to pick up a box of Quaker Oats barley at the grocery store.  Having never cooked with barley before, I searched for recipes online.  Finally, my husband said, “Hey, there’s a recipe on the box. Why don’t you try that one?”  So I did.  Guess what?  The chicken barley chili recipe on the side of the box was really good. In fact, I’ve made this dish for friends (who rave) and cut up a box to stash the recipe in my recipe box.

Since then, I’ve made made pasta, soup, cakes and cheesecake from recipes on boxes, cans and cartons.  For the most part, the recipes have been excellent and pretty easy to make.  I know, it’s really  low brow to cook food from recipes on cans and boxes.  In fact, I can’t believe I’m admitting to this on my blog, so please pretend you heard me say that all my recipes are from my Gourmet cookbook.  But here’s what I have learned: if you are a manufacturer of a food product, it’s in your best interest to have a really, really good recipe on your packaging. I bet the folks at Quaker Oats spent a lot of time on that chicken barley chili recipe because it was going to be printed on millions of boxes and, for a lot of people, that recipe was going to be their introduction to barley!

So what does a recipe on a box have to teach us about marketing?  Just this: that the first interaction potential customers have with your company had better be really, really good. Here are some examples:

  • If you’re a Web design company, your Web site and the sample projects in your portfolio need to represent your best work.
  • If you have a book to sell, the first chapter that you offer for free should be an amazing read.
  • If you have a newsletter or magazine, the sample issue should be your best ever.
  • If you have an ice cream shop, the free sample should be the best flavor, not the excess inventory.
  • If you have a conference to market, showcase the sessions with an amazing video of one of the speakers.
  • If you’re a graphic designer, your business card should stand out.
  • If you’re a writer, your Web site, cover letter and proposal need to be perfectly free of grammatical errors and typos.

Because my first barley dish was great, I’m now a barley lover.  I buy barley regularly and hunt for new recipes in cookbooks and online.  That free, sample recipe on the side of the box made a lifetime customer out of me.

How about you?  What are you selling and how are you presenting your product or service in the best light with a sample of your work?

3 thoughts on “What I Learned About Marketing From a Recipe on a Box

  1. Joanna, thanks, this is a great post. It may seem like a minor thing that could be left off the boxes, but I imagine that the recipes have a noticeable effect on sales. Just a reminder to us all not to neglect the “simple” things about our firms that market our brands.

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