The Proof Is In The Pudding: Marketing Lessons From America’s Most Famous Dessert

Much of the success in your business will undoubtedly come from how well your market yourself, your company or product. A good marketing campaign can be the difference between a business that fails and a business that flourishes. Have you ever seen a business on the verge of bankruptcy and closure get taken over by a new owner who takes the company in a new direction? More often then not it’s the business sense and skills of the new owner that change a company’s fortune’s.

Take Jell-O for example. Although an instant gelatin and pudding product seems like a no brainer now, the company wasn’t always having the success it now enjoys.

In 1845 a man named Peter Cooper was granted a patent for a powdered gelatin. Over the next 40 years not much was done with this product, and the business was eventually sold to Pearle B. Waite, who also owned a cough syrup manufacturing company. The new owner and his wife then added many new flavors to the line up (some of which are still around today) and even gave the product the famous name it goes by now… the only problem is they aren’t the ones who made the name famous.

Rather, in 1899 after not being able to successfully market their product, they sold the business to a man named Otator Francis Woodward for $450. In 1902 Woodward’s company started placing advertisement’s in the Ladies’ Home Journal. What really made the product a success was that in these advertisement Woodward touted Jell-O as “America’s Most Famous Dessert” even though at that point it was still relatively unheard of. In 1927 after a merger and acquisition the company became known as The General Foods Corporation.

As the company grew, it added new flavor and expanded into Canada. Around this point in time the company started using celebrity testimonials and even included recipes in their advertisements. By now the brand was enormously popular and always looking to expand the company released a chocolate flavored instant pudding.

The company again used celebrity sponsorship, using Jack Benny (one of the biggest celebrities at the time) to promote this new product. The Jell-O Show Starring Jack Benny was working so well to sell Jell-O products that General Foods could not make Jell-O fast enough to keep up with the demand due to sugar shortages during World War II.

The company actually had to stop advertising to try slow sales down. The company continued to thrive after the war and continued to grow well into the 1970s and in 1974 the company sponsored Bill Cosby as their pudding spokesperson. Over the course of the next 30 years Cosby became the voice of the company introducing many popular new products and in 2001 Jell-O was named the official state snack of Utah with the Governor declaring an annual Jell-O week.

Now how does this apply to your business? Well like I said before, sometimes the difference between a business flourishing and a business floundering is the marketing. Jell-O is a perfect example of this.

As you read in the article it took over 50 years and a number of different owners before the product really started to take off. What does that say about the thinking that it’s all about the product? Just because you have a million dollar idea doesn’t mean you’ll be a millionaire. What you need is a million dollar idea with solid marketing to back it up. How would you like your business to be so successful, you actually had to stop advertising to slow things down? With the right marketing, it’s entirely possible.

So what else can we learn from Jell-O? The first thing that really sticks out is creating the catch line America’s Most Famous Dessert…before anyone really even knew who they were. This is great example of establishing yourself as an expert and market leader in your field. Is there any reason you couldn’t call yourself your local city’s most famous company in your field? If you owned a pizza place, could you gain more business and compete with the big franchises by establishing your business as the city’s most famous place to get pizza? If you made a good pizza, had excellent customer service, and did some things out of the ordinary to gain attention I bet you could.

The next thing that really stands out is using celebrity testimonials. Now you may think you need deep pockets to have a celebrity promote your business or product, but this is far from the truth. Instead of thinking big and hiring actors or sports stars to promote for you, you could use a local celebrity. Is there a certain radio personality or any other well known person from your community that frequents your business? Have you ever thought about asking them if they would give you a testimonial that could use in your advertising? You might be surprised on who you could find that would help.

The last thing that stands out is being name an official state snack, how’s that for free publicity? Now, I realize becoming the official state snack might not be what you have in mind for your business, but there are many other ways you can generate free publicity.

Let’s use the example of the pizza place again. What if one day you decided to make pizza for the kids at a local elementary, middle or high school? Would they not tell their parents about it? If they liked it, wouldn’t they may of them, and their families come back as new customers? What if the radio/newspaper/tv covered this story. Wouldn’t it create a great image for your business? And how many people who hear about this story do you think would come in to see this great business for themselves and try this famous pizza?

This is only one small example of what is possible. There are many things you can do to generate free publicity and interest in your business. The key is to get creative. What can yo do that your competitors don’t that would be so different people couldn’t help but talk about you? What you can do to be different? How you can establish yourself as famous? Which “celebrities” do you know that would promote your business for you or provide a great testimonial?

Sit down think about it long and hard about this, and come up with a solid plan for separating yourself from the pack. And once you’re done, go out and put your plan into action and enjoy the fruits of your labor with all the new customers and buzz about your business you generate.