Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk Pancake Mix
Quaker Oats could have clearly used a better approach in promoting their new buttermilk pancake mix. Their initial plan, to make customers send in three proofs of purchase from three different kinds of pancake mix, was utterly ludicrous. Who is going to buy six month’s worth of pancakes for a one dollar shaker? And on top of that, who is going to ruin that overabundance of pancake mix by ripping the tops of the boxes off, in order to send them in? Overall, it was a huge marketing and promoting error, and there are many manners in which it could have been dealt with more effectively.
Firstly, the whole idea of purchasing the pancake mix, taking the top off, mailing the proof of purchase, and waiting for a shaker to come in the mail turns many people off. It is too laborious a process and it needs to be simplified for the customer. An example of a solution to this problem would be to simply send the shakers to the retailers and have them hand out one shaker with every box of buttermilk pancake mix purchased, and limit one shaker to a customer. This would have reduced shipping costs for Quaker Oats, and made things much easier on the customer. On top of that, it would have been the best way to promote the shaker, as anyone used to buying Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix would see the shakers being physically given out at the store. This technique would have reached many more customers than a few ads, and would have sparked other non-Jemima buyers to go ahead and start using Jemima pancake mix, in order to get that shaker. Also, Quaker Oats could have had their marketing strategies more targeted at the supermarket shopper by perhaps hanging a shaker next to the mix, and making colorful shaker signs for the retailer to put up. This, again, would put the shaker right there at the customer’s feet, instead of in some far-off mail-order warehouse.
Next, in order to improve Quaker Oats’ "send three proofs of purchase" scheme, they could have at least sold the three mixes in a special three-pack for a lower price. They could have also added some life to the whole thing, perhaps adding some kind of animated character in order to attract children’s attention. Their solution, however, to decrease it to only one necessary proof of purchase was the best improvement on the initial plan and this is evident in the statistics. In 1956 they were selling very few buttermilk pancake mixes, about 10,000 cases. This number shot up to about 80,000 cases in 1958, representing about a 700% increase in sales, a very impressive rise. This large increase in sales was mostly due to the early 1958 introduction of the shaker offer in which only one proof of purchase, from a buttermilk mix, was needed. This promotion was easier on the customer, made more sense, and specifically promoted their new buttermilk mix.
Furthermore the cost of this promotion was much less than the first attempt, about one third the cost, however it yielded about four times as many returns. A very efficient and cost-effective promotion in comparison to the first.
What could Quaker Oats have done to boost their sales even higher? Reiterating, using the "shaker in your face" technique would have been more effective and cheaper than any kind of mail-in campaign.
Finally, Quaker Oats didn’t even have to delve into the whole shaker problem, they could have just hired a third-party to manufacture and retail the shakers alongside their new pancake mix. This would have saved Quaker Oats the whole hassle of marketing, producing, and distributing the shakers, and would have still gotten their main point across to their customers, that making pancakes is easy and fun.
Overall, this a classic case of a company committing a marketing error, and having to solve that problem quickly and effectively. Quaker Oats did accomplish that, but they could have taken many other roads, perhaps more fruitful, in order to reach their desired goal.