Gee Whillickers!

Betty Crocker: The Original Martha Stewart

Let’s start off with the not fully known fact that Betty Crocker never did exist as a real person—though a public opinion poll once rated her as the second most famous woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Washburn Crosby Company was a milling company that received thousands of letters with baking questions in the late 1910s and early 1920s. In 1921, the company decided to make its responses more personal by signing them. They combined the last name of a retired executive, William Crocker, with the first name Betty, which was considered warm and friendly. General Mills would later buy the company and continue marketing the invented kitchen expert.

In 1924, 13 different actresses at radio stations across the country gave Betty Crocker a voice for the radio debut of the nation’s first cooking show, which went on to run as a national broadcast for 24 years.

And, in 1936, Betty was finally given a face. The company brought together all the women in the Home Service department and an artist created a composite mixture which became the official likeness. The broad circulation of the image greatly increased the popular opinion that Betty was a real person.

Over the next 70 years, her face has changed; she became younger in ‘55 and again in ‘65; in the ‘70s and ‘80s she became less homemaker and more businesswoman; and in 1996, using computer morphing, she became more multicultural and slightly “ethnic” looking.

One thing’s for sure, she is a lasting spokescharacter. So, what will future Bettys look like?


Snipes and Violators

These terms are often used interchangeably as something in a design that intentionally breaks the design in order to call attention to a special feature, especially time-sensitive messages and offers.

Snipe: A stripe or block of announcement copy typically placed in a print advertisement in such a way that it stands out. They are typically reversed out and placed in the upper-right or -left hand area for easy visibility. They are sometimes printed in black so they only appear on one printing plate, which makes it more easily removed or changed when re-run.

Violator: Type and/or graphic banner, starburst, etc., designed to grab a reader’s attention immediately. Also, a label that flares out from a package that calls attention to the product on store shelves.

Gee Whillickers!

Redesigning the Silent Salesman: Packaging

On average, 27 minutes will elapse between supermarket shoppers rolling in their empty cart and rolling it out filled with brightly colored commerce. The average store has 30,000 items, so packaging has only a fraction of a second to attract its buyers.

Seasons change and leaves turn and, on a longer scale of time, so do products. Saran Wrap “wrapped up” its trademark yellow of 40 years and “rolled out” a more insistent red; Crest toothpaste tubes changed from white to “cool” blue and Coca-Cola deepened its brand red and jazzed up its graphics for more “pop” — if you’ll pardon all the hideous puns.

The devil’s in the details: warmer tones were used to represent the homey feeling of a welcoming sunlit kitchen; the red border was employed to tie the product line together; the wavy band to hint at the mixing of batter.

Have Your Cake and Market It, Too

A few years ago, the parent company for the Betty Crocker brand, General Mills, spent over a year and a million dollars on the revamp of their boxes. Enlisting the services of packaging consultants, food photographers, photo retouchers, graphic artists, FDA attorneys and market researchers to wage war on that fickle and discriminating consumer eye.

The problem: For several years the Betty Crocker line suffered inconsistencies in its brand. Consumer focus groups showed that the box failed to stand out, its purple background was considered “anti-Betty” and, sadly, that the product photography looked fake.

The process: The company’s agency created more than 100 versions of the red spoon logo, generated 800 sketches for consumer testing, and even had handwriting analysts reviewing dozens of Betty’s “signatures.” Four weeks were spent by an art director and four food stylists to capture all of the product shots, using four different sets.

The results: An online survey, where the product was placed in a virtual aisle, showed that people found the new products 15% more quickly than the old ones, and four out of five strongly praised the new delicious packaging. More than 50% said they would be more likely to buy because of the new packaging.