Audra Carson Interview: Not Your Grandmother’s Betty Crocker

MIMA’s Monthly Event for May to be held on Wednesday May 16th is “Not Your Grandmother’s Betty Crocker: How a Decades-Old Brand is Winning in the Digital Space by Connecting Content to Commerce.” The event will feature General Mills’ Head of Content Marketing & Media Platforms, Audra Carson. Audra uses her deep knowledge in leading content and brand teams to drive sales of GMI products. The world class experiences created for consumers of Betty Crocker branded content keep this long-standing household name at the forefront of today’s content marketing innovations.

MIMA recently chatted with Audra to gain insight into what she will share with us in the May Monthly.

MIMA: How does Betty Crocker use content to be more relevant to the consumer now than ever?

Audra: People think of Betty Crocker as the first lady of food. However, she is really the first lady of content. Almost 100 years ago, Gold Medal Flour ran a newspaper ad in the Saturday Evening Post. They asked consumers to cut out and put together a puzzle, which they would send in to the company headquarters and receive a prize of a pin cushion. A little bit of promotion marketing back in the day. What they weren’t expecting was that they received more than 5000 entries and along with many of the submissions, consumers sent letters asking questions about how to use Gold Medal flour.

The advertising manager realized there was potential to build a relationship with the consumer, giving birth to Betty Crocker. He had his customer service department personally responding to each and every letter. He knew the brand could connect with consumers and drive loyalty.

All the truths of that brand and the content Betty Crocker still produces remain. Yesterday’s cookbooks are today’s websites and apps. Yesterday’s long-standing radio show is today’s voice skill on Alexa. Betty Crocker started this whole thing with letters and now we’re having conversations on social media. We are food content for the world – that content is bigger than digital banking. People might think of Betty Crocker as an old brand, but she is leading the way. Our platform is top 5, right up there with Allrecipees.com and Food Network. The big difference is Betty Crocker is a publisher and servicer to brands and the others are focused on advertising revenue

Way before the baking mixes even existed, the first Betty Crocker branded product was soup! General Mills was distributing branded recipes and advice through letters, radio shows and much later the iconic cookbook. We haven’t really taken our foot off the gas since.

MIMA: How has that original approach evolved today?

Audra: Food is the last category to make its way online. The reason is, it is very complex. If you think of ordering from an online retailer like Amazon, the item is coming from a distribution center. Whereas with food there are countless amounts of SKUs and there is no distribution center. There are only local level stores with local inventory. We are paving the way for the next generation of food and grocery by connecting Betty Crocker to online shopping.

MIMA: What is Betty Crocker’s role in the e-commerce space as the food category goes online?

Audra: Given our heritage, consumers expect us to be a leader. There is a certain amount of knowledge that comes with the Betty Crocker brand. When people are looking for an answer when there is a high-stakes meal — for Thanksgiving or other special events – they aren’t going to go to just any random food blogger. They come to Betty Crocker because that is what their Mom used, or their Grandmother. We have an authority in the food space that can be very valuable. Over half of our online volume comes from organic search, where we are literally responding to consumer’s needs. At the end of the day when you can continue to meet those needs, you will build a long-term relationship. You gain the right to introduce new brands to consumers because you have already developed that trust over time. This leads to us driving sales for General Mills’ consumer brands.

MIMA: When you consider brands like Amazon who recently purchased Whole Foods – most likely with the idea of getting into e-commerce in the food space, how does Betty Crocker stay on top of that type of competition?

Audra: We are not in the food distribution game. We are in the content distribution game. Our goal is to drive “first basket” advantage as people are starting to buy their food online. We are making sure they see our content and can put our content into an online shopping cart. At the end of the day, the manufacturers that are going to win, are the ones that get in the cart first. If algorithms and shopping lists favor what people have bought before, then our objective is to drive the consumer to put our General Mills brand products in the basket first via our content. Amazon and other online retailers are customer of ours. They want us to distribute content that makes people use their carts.

MIMA: Amazing insights and we look forward to your full presentation on Wednesday May 16. To wrap things up, is there anything you are willing to share with us that our members don’t know about you but might find interesting?

Audra: My love affair with content and media started more than 25-years ago when I was the editor of the high school newspaper. It is interesting to see how that initial spark of interest has evolved itself into a career. It is also ironic how I went to newspaper camp at the University of Minnesota and ultimately went to the journalism school there. My son is now starting coding school at UMN. The mediums have changed but the idea of content and media has been around for 100 years.

To hear Audra Carson’s full presentation, join us at the May 16 event at 8 a.m. at the Humphrey School Conference Center. Other upcoming events include the Career Development series: Future of Digital Careers and the summer CATFOA series.

Written by MIMA Volunteer and Marketing Committee Chair Gina Micek

Gina Micek

Owner

Integrated marketing strategist, writer, storyteller and adventurer. I am a builder with skills in relationship building and telling compelling stories that drive connections.