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Direct Response Marketing

Housewares' Claim to Fame

1 Mar, 2012 By: Jackie Jones Response

Celebrity chefs whip up marketing masterpieces for home and housewares brands in DR.


Cooking Theatre at the Home and Housewares Show in Chicago.Any old butter knife is just one among a million kitchen appliances but a butter knife wielded by, say, Paula Deen to add a few (or hundred) more cholesterol points to a dish — that is something that would catch your eye.

Endorsements from athletes or actors are nothing new to direct response, but as the food marketing industry evolves, it’s chefs themselves who are enjoying new levels of celebrity. Pair that with savvy housewares marketers tuned into consumers’ interests, and DR advertisers have a perfect recipe for success.

“Consumers inherently want to be connected to things that bring them back to their comfort zones. For the housewares market, the place we all grew up around was the kitchen,” says Steve Edelstein, CEO of The Logical Step LLC. “Globally, food marketing has had a very strong evolution not only in terms of actual product sales, but also in the growth and exposure for the celebrity chef. The connection between celebrity chefs, food marketing and the benefit to housewares really embodies our culture as a whole. And it’s perfect for DR consumers who want more than anything to engage, connect, learn, experience and buy.”

Cup of Creativity, Pinch of Product, Dash of DR

Many housewares advertisers that once were entrenched in the grocery category have begun to think outside the box in whom they market to and how, and the rise of chefs as celebrities has provided a surprising connection to customers for DR in particular, Edelstein notes.

“Chefs like Emeril Lagasse and Bobby Flay have quietly — or not so quietly in some cases — been building their brand for years now, and the expansion of TV media has helped create this in a widespread manner. Whereas you used to find chefs on one or two channels, there are multiple cooking networks now, competition shows and reality TV all based around the kitchen,” Edelstein says. “You’ve got this identity in chefs, you have this connection through their viewers — the next natural progression is selling.”

As media and television networks get more involved, DR’s role in the housewares industry’s success increases exponentially. While shows on a variety of channels from TLC to Food Network to NBC engage and teach their audiences, they can also be used as direct selling tools.

“Within the original content programming, housewares and food marketers will be selling the products they’re preparing or the appliances they are using. The power of celebrity chefs behind this marketing is that viewers want to emulate what they see on TV, and the core of DR advertising allows them to,” Edelstein says. “And on the side of marketers and executives, there is that measurement only DR provides. Putting a show on air, and blending all these components together, you can now justify the investment you made in that show by seeing the direct sales that come from it.”

Everyone from home shopping networks, such as ShopNBC, to stations like the Food Network and brands within both the food and housewares space are tuning in, Edelstein says.

“Every brand out there trying to gain traction and better positioning within their category is doing these things,” he says, “and they are all DR mechanisms to engage directly with the consumer in a measured way.”

The rise of celebrity chefs complements housewares marketers’ drive-to-retail campaigns, as well. The popularity of food marketing has reconnected consumers and brands in real life through in-store demos and celebrity chef appearances, according to Susan Zaso, consultant to Demo Marketing, an in-store demonstration, execution and marketing company. Zaso’s team brings products, food and appliances to life directly in front of consumers through live demos, she says.

“Consumers are interested in what they are purchasing, from the taste, feel and smell, to how an appliance can make their life a little easier. We are the very last person a consumer interacts with before a purchase is made, and our direct connection to each consumer automatically builds brand awareness,” Zaso says. “The best and most effective way to reach consumers is through education, or in our case demoing. Consumers can taste, touch, smell and learn. When consumers see the products we are demoing, it becomes a win-win.”

A live demonstration of a particular recipe or sampling of a chef’s creation easily lends itself to upsells for housewares brands that partner themselves with a celebrity chef, Zaso says. From cutlery to cookware, consumers are much more likely to buy after seeing a housewares product in action, and in an industry where constant innovation leads to increased competition, the demo business helps introduce new products to consumers in a direct, attention-grabbing manner.

Celebrity Chefs Center-Stage

It only takes one look at the International Home+Housewares Show to see food marketing and celebrity chefs’ influence in action. In 2005, the International Housewares Association (IHA), which Nielsen Cable Network Rankingshosts the annual show in Chicago, launched the Cooking Theater on its show floor, where chefs prepare favorite dishes and show off their skills. It has since evolved to include a bevy of recognizable names.

“The nature of celebrity chefs has changed and broadened because of market competition. In many cases, the chefs are as well-known as the product or company they represent,” says Perry Reynolds, vice president of marketing and trade development for the IHA. “The Cooking Theater draws a lot of excitement at our show. People want to hear what the chefs have to say, and pairing chefs with the products they use is a natural evolution for housewares.”

Celebrity chefs can give instant credibility to housewares products.

“If you are a fan of one of these chefs and they make a recommendation or you see them use the product live, you’re going to pay attention to that,” Reynolds says. “That translates into consumers buying a product in most cases.”

Celebrity chefs hold a special appeal in cookware, cutlery and tabletop products, Reynolds says. Chefs appearing at the 2012 Home+Housewares Show include “Top Chef Masters” host Curtis Stone and Iron Chefs Cat Cora and Michael Symon; as well as culinary stars Deen, Chris Cosentino, Ming Tsai and Rick Tarantino, to name just a few.

Tarantino, a professional chef and TV personality, has a long history of behind-the-scenes work in housewares, helping develop and assist new brand lines or products dating back to the 1990s. Tarantino has written recipes for Crock-Pot; developed appliances for White-Westinghouse Co.; hosted shows on the Home Shopping Network and QVC; and developed coffee creamer flavors for Baileys. Most recently, he worked with Jonathan and Andy Hillstrand of “Deadliest Catch” fame to develop spices and seasonings that will be released later this year. As his celebrity has grown — though he modestly says he’s much more of a family man than a famous chef — Tarantino finds himself more often center-stage.

“Westinghouse has a whole booth around me at this year’s Chicago show, with a kitchen stage that I’ll cook and demo products at,” the chef says. “At the same time, I’ll go to the Cooking Theater to demo my ‘Slow Cooked Nation,’ a mix of slow recipes. It’s fun to teach people live how to make modern cuisine in an appliance that has great technology, and there’s a soft sell there for the marketers. It works for everyone involved.”

The evolution of food marketing and increasing popularity of chefs has been one of the biggest influences on the housewares market in the past 10 years, Tarantino says.

“Prior to celebrity chefs, housewares brands would show off a few pots and pans, target the mom of the household, and drive that brand name home. What’s happened with the Internet, TV and active retail world is that consumers now have access to more information than ever before. Just buying an appliance with a name on it is not enough to motivate the sale anymore,” Tarantino says. “The call to action is now different. Celebrity chefs have changed the market because we are now the tool to get the consumer to buy and use the product.”

Recipe for Success

Housewares marketers are taking notice. In the case of Ergo Chef, a developer and marketer of ergonomic knives, its Pro-Series cutlery drew celebrity chefs to the brand’s corner. Multipurpose Sandwich KnifeThe company — founded in 2002 by two brothers, one a chef and now president of Ergo Chef who suffered from tendinitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and the other a sales engineer — has partnered with Guy Fieri for a line of professional quality cutlery, and most recently paired with celebrity restaurateur Tony Luke Jr. of Philadelphia for the launch of his more affordable, multipurpose knife. In both instances, the chefs encountered Ergo Chef at various industry trade shows, loved the product, and partnerships were born.

“Partnering a unique, different product with a celebrity chef was a perfect combination for success for us,” says Michael Staib, co-owner and vice president of sales and marketing for Ergo Chef. “Chef Guy Fieri, for one, is a ’Kulinary’ rock star. He’s the No. 1 face of the celebrity culinary industry.”

For housewares products with a higher price point, like the Fieri Knuckle Sandwich & Midnight series cutlery line aimed at home cooking enthusiasts, a celebrity backer works well, Staib adds.

“You do have to combat certain challenges with higher price points, but when you have a product where the quality is on point, and you pair that with a celebrity chef, it can be successful,” Staib says.

Ergo Chef also joined forces with Luke for its newest multipurpose sandwich knife targeting more conservative shoppers. As Luke’s brand as a celebrity chef continues to spread, Ergo Chef is hoping to develop additional knives, and possibly a spatula product, for the line.

“Tony’s line opens up a new market and gives us a new line to speak to an entirely different audience than before,” Staib says.

Capitalizing on recognizable faces of chefs is just the beginning for what food marketing and housewares can accomplish together. The continuity afforded by DR marketing and celebrity chef endorsement, along with a keen eye on digital advancements, is the future of housewares, Tarantino says.

“The brand name no longer carries as much weight because there are hundreds of brands out there online, and retail stores no longer boast exclusivity because of the Internet. In order to battle that, you need another tool, and celebrity chefs have become that tool,” Tarantino says.

Further brand support through social media and celebrity chef engagement will continue to boost the housewares industry, Tarantino says. Tarantino routinely checks his Facebook and Twitter pages, and makes it a point to respond to questions and comments because that’s what consumers expect now, he adds.

“It’s no longer good enough to just say, ‘I’m Chef XYZ, here’s the product I use, buy it,’” Tarantino says. “Now consumers want to go to your website and connect more, and the housewares brands that do that will gain lifelong customers.”

More programming, the growth of interactive TV and more in-store demos will boost housewares, Edelstein says.

“What celebrity chefs do for DR, when it comes down to it, is add another layer of quality to the advertising,” he says. “The quality of the food, the credibility of the chef, the high level of expertise at demos — these all boost a brand’s image, and the advertisers that then take it a step further to engage with the audience are the housewares brands that will break through the clutter and succeed. That’s where it’s all heading.”


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