Betty Crocker Still Looking for Younger Cooks

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It's not your grandmother's Betty Crocker catalog anymore.


The book -- which includes flatware, dinnerware, cookware, bakeware, cookbooks, kitchen tools and accessories for home decorating -- continues its pursuit of a younger demographic with the 72-page fall edition, which started arriving in 1 million to 2 million homes this week.


"Our customer base has aged, and the catalog evolved into having greater appeal for an older consumer that had a stronger connection to Betty Crocker," said Linc Davis, director of direct marketing for General Mills Inc., Minneapolis, which owns the Betty Crocker brand. "We've tried to appeal to a younger audience without alienating our existing customer base."


The previous target audience was women 45 and older. Now, Betty Crocker looks to attract women ages 25-45.


"This is a continuation of something we started a couple of years ago when we tried to loosen up the Betty Crocker catalog to try to improve the appeal to our customer base as it was then," he said. "The reality is that what we did a couple of years ago appealed to our most recent buyers and was less appealing to our longer-term customers."


Davis said that changes have been made to the catalog during the last 12-18 months that were designed to create a broader appeal to new customers without suppressing response from the existing base.


"We tried all sorts of things, from lowering density and increasing white space to updating our photography and layout," he said. "Obviously, not all of that worked. The lower density was not as successful as we thought it would be. With this latest catalog, we brought the density up in certain categories. [With our initial] tests, there was a dropoff in terms of the responses. It declined in the older segments. What's been kept is a cleaner, tighter layout, not necessarily with a lower density, but with a better organization of products so that it's easier on the eye and easier to read."


Davis also said the number of tips and recipes has been increased and the use of easier-to-read fonts has been expanded.


"Our customer base had started to include empty nesters and were buying our items as gifts," Davis said. "But we realized in 10 or 15 years they would not be around, and we knew that we would not be around if we didn't build stronger connections with the people they were buying for. We wanted to change the perception that my grandmother may shop there but I wouldn't."


The fall drop included a significant percentage of prospects from rented lists, the company said. The cataloger will repeat this strategy for its 100-page holiday book, scheduled to arrive in 1.5 million to 2.5 million homes by the first week of October. Previous customers have not been dropped from the house list as the rules for attrition have not been changed. Ovation Marketing, La Crosse, WI, has provided the creative for the catalogs since 1993.


"We looked at the age of the customer to get the profile we are appealing to -- mothers with school-age children," he said. "We didn't select so much on income."


Appealing to younger consumers led to the addition of more kitchen tools to the catalog as well as contemporary dinnerware patterns to go with its classics. Five flatware patterns were introduced that are modeled after the most popular bridal-registry patterns.


"What we tried to do was clean it up and make each product stand out and use quite a few silhouettes and non-obtrusive backgrounds to show off the products," Davis said. "Previously, we would use more groupings of products, showing them laid out on a kitchen counter, which created more environment but made it more difficult to purchase. Our shoppers are more comparative and less compulsive."


The fall book's cover wrap invites consumers to "Sample NEW! ONEIDA Premier Stainless Flatware" while the cover features high-heat spatulas "now available in 5 sizes!"


"The high-heat spatulas have an entry-level price point," Davis said. "What we're trying to do is have a product with broad appeal that skews to the younger audience that is more likely to make an impulse purchase."


The catalog's points program remains unchanged. Customers can save 10 percent to 75 percent on items by using points found on General Mills packaging. Also on the cover is a message that "Catalog orders can now earn cash for your school! See page 3." This is another part of the effort to reach mothers with children in grade school. Two percent of purchases from the catalog can be given to a school of their choice through the Box Tops for Education Program; the amount is 4 percent through Dec. 20.


Davis anticipates a slight rise in overall orders.


"We would be thrilled with a 3 percent increase in orders compared to last year, given the economy," he said. No increase is anticipated in the $60 average order size, he said.


Online orders doubled last year compared with the previous year, and Davis anticipates they will double again this year. Online orders represented 6 percent of all catalog-generated orders last year.


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