Duncan Hines Bakes a Club

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Duncan Hines is keeping its avid baking customers engaged on the Web. The company has built a strong online community dubbed "Baker's Club" in the past two years on its Web site, DuncanHines.com.

Now with 100,000 members, plus the Baker's Club monthly e-newsletter database, the club has become a place for baking enthusiasts to share recipes, ask baking advice from company experts and communicate with other Duncan Hines users on the "Baker's Forum" message board.

"You strive to make connections with your most loyal customers, your heaviest users. We use the overall Duncan Hines site for that," said Eric Hintz, director of marketing at Duncan Hines, which is owned by Pinnacle Foods Corp., Cherry Hill, NJ.

Duncan Hines executives were approached about the Baker's Club idea two years ago by online travel community IgoUgo, New York, which provides technology and management for several Web sites' online communities.

"We tend to gravitate toward companies that realize launching an online community is a lot of work," said Jim Donnelly, co-founder and vice president of marketing at IgoUgo. "We do provide all of the technology and can provide great content."

In addition to better relationships with customers, Duncan Hines has used the club feedback to get ideas for new recipes, Donnelly said. Duncan Hines customers experiment with its cake mixes, make up new recipes and share those with the online community.

"[Duncan Hines executives] like it for ideas," he said. "What better place to look for new recipes than your recipe community?"

Executives use the club for both recipe and marketing research, Hintz said.

"It allows us to extract some marketing learning, including the kinds of issues that bakers come across, and the new trends and techniques they like," he said. "It is certainly an important part of our marketing efforts."

The monthly e-newsletter also has developed into an important way to communicate with club members. It includes details on new Duncan Hines products and highlights certain Baker's Club members and their unique recipes.

Though the same e-newsletter goes to all 100,000 members, the company may segment the list in the future. And the club will mix in more marketing initiatives, such as coupons, over time.

"Online efforts utilizing contests, sweepstakes and coupons are potentially a few ways to augment our existing marketing efforts," Hintz said.

The Baker's Club is not promoted in offline marketing but Duncan Hines executives are looking at ways to integrate offline and online marketing campaigns better.

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