by: Geoff Ficke
Making a Minor Product Usage Change Can Propell Major Sales Advances
In the middle of the 20th century pre-packaged foods and mixes were not as ubiquitous as they are today. Typically, a middle class home had a housewife present and preparing her families meals from scratch. The advent of mass-market consumerism would rapidly change this tradition.
General Mills was a pioneer in developing and selling prepared food products. The Company Marketed first offered a line of dried cake mixes in the 1940’s and the convenience that these products provided was thought to be a sure fire winner. Sales were initially acceptable but not sensational. General Mills Marketing Managers could not understand what the missing element was that would make sales sizzle.
The great Marketing Guru, the Austrian Ernest Dichter was hired by General Mills to analyze the prepared cake mix business. Mr. Dichter is credited with creating such Marketing breakthroughs as the Focus Group and Behavioral Science as applied to Consumerism. He began his analysis of the products and housewives reaction to them in his normal analytical fashion.
Immediately he noticed that though the cakes baked utilizing the mixes were acceptable, they were dismissed by many housewives as not being as tasty, or velvety as cakes baked from scratch using natural ingredients. General Mills was very aggressive in promoting that the cake mix powder contained dried eggs. Mr. Dichter saw an opportunity.