Don’t Dream It, Be It: The Velveeta Manifesto and Marketing In Hard Times

10 11 2008

In hard times, poor marketers have a million excuses.

“My brand is too old-fashioned to do anything cool”. “My budget is too small”. “I’d be an awesome marketer if I could only work on a really hot brand”.

frank_tattooWhy not do something great right now, today?

In the immortal words of Dr. Frank N. Furter, “don’t dream it, be it”.

(Immortal? Really? Yes. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the longest running release in film history.)

Velveeta is, perhaps, not the world’s sexiest brand. And I’m guessing they don’t have the biggest budget ever.

Bad marketers make excuses. Good marketers make progress with any brand, in any economy.

Here’s what Velveeta is doing right.

The Velveeta Casserole Challenge Blogger Campaign

Kraft is running a challenge that asks five top Mommy bloggers (Suburban Bliss, Miss Zoot, Confessions of an Apron Queen, My Wooden Spoon and Livin’ With Me!) to use Velveeta to create casseroles for four for under $10. The recipes appear online through Nov. 23, where visitors can vote for their favorite.

Why is this a great idea? What lessons can we learn from what they’re doing?

Focus On What You Can Control

You can’t control when the economy will get better. You can’t control what people will buy, or won’t buy. You can’t get twice as clever with your positioning and market research and double your results. When the economy turns sour, it’s time to focus on the fundamentals.

Velveeta can help feed a family of four for $10. That’s not a glamorous promise. But it’s simple and clear. And for a lot of families it’s hugely relevant.

Velveeta was born in 1928 and was barely a year old when the stock market crashed and The Great Depression hit America. If this was a brand that didn’t know how to deliver value, it couldn’t have survived. This campaign taps into what’s fundamental about the brand.

bloggersIt’s fair to say that a value message focused on recipes ain’t exactly revolutionary stuff for a food company. And this effort won’t pick up any medals at awards time. But, presented in a fresh and contemporary way that leverages Moms talking to Moms about what matters, it’s very smart business.

Don’t Believe The Hype

“Newspaper and TV journalists see their industry shrinking daily, reinforcing their tendency to see the economic glass as half empty—and draining.” —Paul Maidment, editor,, in an interview with eMarketer

The age of always-on news means that the same stories get beaten into the ground relentlessly. Watch CNN for more than an hour, and you’ll be looking around for your suicide pistol. Ignore the news, and focus on your brand and the opportunities that exist NOW.

Look For The Win-Win

In a tough economy, it’s hard for Kraft to put growth numbers on the board. But it’s also true that in a tough economy, it’s hard for Moms to put something interesting on the table.

There’s a win-win staring you in the face for this brand, if you’re paying attention. Good for Kraft for keeping their eyes open.

Find The “Blessing In The Broken-ness”

My wife’s uncle is a priest. He’s always reminding us to “find the blessing in the broken-ness” — in other words, in everything bad that happens there’s always — always — an opportunity to find a gift.

What new opportunities has this bad economy opened for your brand? Velveeta can help feed a family of four for $10. What can you do for your customers? How can your brand really, truly help somebody with a big problem they have right now?

Anybody can look like a genius in good times. The best marketers deliver when times are bad.

Why not do something great right now, today?

Don’t dream it. Be it.