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The Green Bean Casserole is Marketing at its Best

What do a Green Bean Casserole and smart marketing have in common?

They put a product into the context and circumstances of customers’ lives.

The problem with most marketing is it usually covers the features but leaves out how it makes a customer’s life better. Trust me, it’s not always obvious to your customers. 

But there is a way to bridge the gap between raving about features and answering the question, “What will it do for me?”

It is called content marketing. 

Essentially, content is information. But it isn’t information about specs or features. It is educational, inspirational, newsworthy, entertaining, useful, etc. Instead of explaining why customers need your products, tell them how to use them. And you can do it in a wide variety of ways, like in blogs, videos, tip sheets, recipes, games, podcasts, newsletters, etc.

At its core, a content marketing piece is not salesy, yet it generates sales. It isn’t traditional advertising, but it is a way to create brand awareness and a connection to your company or product that makes it relevant to your customers.

One of the best examples of content marketing is Campbell’s Soup Company’s Green Bean Casserole recipe. 

Campbell's Creamy Mushroom Soup Cans

The recipe, originally called “Green Bean Bake,” was created in 1955 by Dorcas Reilly, who was a supervisor in the Campbell’s Soup Company test kitchen. It was inspired by an opportunity to have a Campbell’s recipe printed by the Associated Press and a question:

“What is a quick and easy recipe made with two things most Americans always have on hand?”

The recipe was a hit!  Campbell’s estimates that there’s a Green Bean Casserole on over 20 million Thanksgiving tables every year. Eventually, they added the recipe to the soup label, and today approximately 40% of sales of Cream of Mushroom soup are due to the Green Bean Casserole recipe.

This is an excellent example of content that “places a product in the context and circumstances of its customer’s lives.” according to Ann Handley, author of the book Content Rules.

The Content Marketing Institute (yes, there is such a thing) has identified common characteristics of brands that are having great success with content marketing. These brands focus on:

  • Creating content that their audience wants to know, learn, be inspired by, etc.
  • Featuring influencers, fans, and experts to extend the reach to audiences the brands usually wouldn’t reach.
  • Telling stories about how the brands operate in a larger context, like how they help and connect with larger communities.
  • Picking a niche within their wider consumer audience to ensure that they deliver valuable and relevant content.
  • Offering multiple formats, from text to video and more, to give their audiences a choice in how they can consume the content.

Your Marketing Action Item: Put your product or service in the context of your customers’ lives. Create a content marketing piece that answers a common question you hear from customers. Make it a video, blog, social media post, slide presentation, etc.

Want to see more great examples of content marketing? I wrote a guest blog for Electromagnetic Marketing, a cool firm that I consult with.  What is Content Marketing?, covers the Green Bean Casserole and a few more inspiring examples, including one from Burger King®.