October 27th, 2010

Cooking with Cream Cheese: Kraft Plays With Context

By Kyle Morich

There was a time that baking soda was just a crystalline substance that was used in baking to release carbon dioxide and help dough rise.  And then Arm & Hammer got very creative and suggested keeping an open box in your refrigerator to eliminate odors.  And now the uber-substance is used everywhere, from toothpaste to antacids.  We don’t give this a second thought, yet consider this: the same substance you put in your mouth you also sprinkle in your cat’s litter box. That’s marketing, ladies and gentlemen.

We always talk about how Context is a key component to habit formation.  If a behavior isn’t associated with a particular context, that behavior can never become habitual.  But flipped another way, Context can be used to identify tremendous growth opportunities.  By marketing baking soda in the context of odor elimination (or stain-lifting, or whatever), Arm & Hammer expanded the pie and moved their brand out of the Cooking context.  Kraft Foods and their Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand are doing the same thing with their launch of “Cooking Creme.”  This extra creamy version of cream cheese can be added to pastas or other foods to add richness and texture.  Some experienced bakers have known about this versatility for years, but creating a new context for the average consumer has Kraft anticipating a huge uptick in revenue.

Brand managers often think their brand exist in isolation, rising atop a hill awash in the golden glow of the rising sun as their consumers run toward it, extolling their love and joy for the brand and how critical it is to their daily existence.  But the truth is that the consumer world is messy.  Odds are you interact with between 50 to 70 brands before you even leave for work in the morning.  Can you name all of them?  Most of the time, consumers would rather a brand just solve their problems.  We often ask our clients, “Are you the meal, a course, or the ingredient?”  The point is to think about what role a product plays in behavior.  Everyone wants to be the center of attention, but there is big business in being a behind-the-scenes part of a behavior.

Kraft saw a huge opportunity for consumers to start using cream cheese as an ingredient in their recipes, not just as a spread to put on the morning bagel.  Now they still have a tough path ahead of them to make the behaviors in this alternate context habitual.  Consumers will need to repeatedly use the cream cheese product in their recipes, notice the difference, find the difference appealing, and continue to buy the product.  But for recognizing the current Cream Cheese context was saturated and for seeking different contexts for growth, Kraft is at least moving in the right direction.

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