Six Content Marketing Lessons I Learned From A Simple Thanksgiving Tradition

Although I live outside the US, Thanksgiving’s one of those holidays I celebrate in spirit, if not in person. I’m always curious to learn more about Thanksgiving traditions and being a foodie I’m fascinated by what people eat at the dinner table.

While I still can’t get my head around that sweet potato and marshmallow combo, a green bean casserole is something I might be tempted to try. If you live in the US I guess you already know the story of how this dish came to be a Thanksgiving dinner staple, but for those who aren’t familiar, it’s a great marketing story, which I’d like to share with you today.

First demo kitchen, Campbell’s, 1941

The casserole originated 63 years ago in the test kitchen at Campbell’s Soup, where Dorcas Reilly worked as a home economist. Dorcas invented a Green Bean Casserole recipe in response to a question from the Associated Press: “What’s a good Thanksgiving side dish that uses ingredients found in most American kitchens?”

Lesson #1 Every piece of content that you create should have an intended audience. As you think about creating content to support your social media marketing, focus your strategy around your audience’s needs and interests. What kind of information is your audience looking for? What problems can you solve for them? Use a tool like Quora or Reddit to uncover the questions that need answering.

The recipe Dorcas invented went viral.

Millions of Americans made Green Bean Casserole that year. And today, over 60 years later, it’ll be served on an estimated 30 million Thanksgiving tables across the US, earning its place as one of the most beloved recipes in America.

Lesson #2 Trying to create content solely for the purpose of “going viral” is a recipe for failure. Staying focused on what your audience needs from you, on the other hand, is your best way of getting recognized by the people who matter most to your business. Read How Can I Make My Content Go Viral? for more ideas.

Dorcas, who passed away just last month, at the age of 92, createdthe mother of all comfort foods by simply combining two things most Americans had on hand in 1955: green beans and Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup.

Originally called “Green Bean Bake,” the dish takes just minutes to whip up, contains a mere six ingredients and can be customized to please many different taste preferences.

Lesson #3 The key to the recipe’s success is in its simplicity. Bring the same simplicity to your content marketing. Make it clear and unambigious. Avoid jargon and convoluted copy that people may not understand. Use short sentences and paragraphs and favor everyday language when you write for your audience.

The dish really took off when Campbell’s began printing the recipe on its cans of cream of mushroom soup in 1960.

Lesson #4 It’s not enough to have great marketing content, you need a plan in place to promote that content. Read 15 Ways To Increase Your Social Media Shares for ideas.

Today, Dorcas’s green bean casserole accounts for a staggering 40 percent of Cream of Mushroom soup sales.

Lesson #5 The customer journey begins with content. According to Havas Group’s 2017 Meaningful Brands study, 84 percent of people expect brands to create content. Content builds brand awareness, increases trust, drives leads and influences purchase decisions.
Dorcas Reilly. Source: Campbell’s.

Quoting from Campbell’s obituary, “Dorcas would often share that the first time she made her famous recipe, it did not receive the highest rating in Campbell’s internal testing. Yet, it was her persistence and creativity that led to an enduring recipe that will live on for decades to come.”

Lesson #6 In order for a creative idea to become a reality, we must be persistent.

Researchers Brian Lucas and Loran Nordgren, wrote in Harvard Business Review about a series of studies they conducted that found people underestimate the impact of persistence on creativity.

In one of the studies, Lucas and Nordgren asked subjects to come up with as many ideas as they could for Thanksgiving dishes. After 10 minutes, the researchers asked the students to predict how many ideas they’d be able to generate if they persisted for another 10 minutes. Once they answered, they spent 10 more minutes coming up with ideas.

The subjects predicted, on average, that they would be able to come up with only 10 more ideas if they were given the extra time. But when they actually tried, they came up with 15 more ideas each on average. Interestingly, the additional ideas were more creative and more relevant than the first ones.

So there you have it — six content marketing lessons learned from one simple recipe. Creativity really is all around us, if we only remain open to it and pay attention.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.