It’s hardly news that cookbooks are big business, with Jamie et al leading the charge on the charts every year. But what is a marketer to do when she needs to tell the world about a brilliant new food title by an author who, whilst extremely well-respected in her field, doesn’t have the huge profile of a mainstream TV chef, all on a rather modest marketing budget?
We found that harnessing the power of social media, creating extra digital content that people actually wanted, and forging some intelligent partnerships meant that we didn’t need to spend a fortune to put together a creative, innovative, and highly effective campaign.
Earlier this year, Jacqui Small Publishing, the creator of numerous award-winning illustrated lifestyle books, published Mich Turner’s Cake Masterclass, by the founder and director of London’s Little Venice Cake Company. Like all Jacqui’s titles, it’s a gorgeous product, excellently designed and featuring beautiful photography. Author Mich Turner is a leading authority on special occasion cakes, and her creations have graced the tables of the Queen, Madonna and Paul McCartney. Whilst the £30 book covers many aspects of baking, it concentrates most on high-end cake decoration, making it a very focused book for a particular market. Our challenge was to reach that market, and then expand sales beyond it.
We began by identifying a brand with which we knew the author would particularly resonate, and which had a large, active customer base. Silver Spoon’s baking-based social network bakingmad.com has been a great success for the company, with over 100,000 people signed up to receive monthly newsletters and a high level of engagement with online competitions and offers. Mich had worked with them previously, and so they were as keen as we were to team up.
We devised a programme of activity centring around a competition to find Britain’s best cake decorator. Entrants submitted a photo of their best-decorated cake with Mich picking the winner. The prize was a place on one of Mich’s real life masterclasses – a luxury all-day course at the Langham Hotel with a champagne afternoon tea - plus a signed book and a hamper of Silver Spoon baking goodies. The competition was trailed in the newsletter, and the winners were also featured in an article on bakingmad.com after it had closed. It featured, together with an image of the book jacket, in one of six rolling MPU-sized ads on bakingmad.com’s homepage for the entire month of March. Bakingmad regularly tweeted about the competition and posted frequent status updates on facebook. The campaign worked for both sides of the partnership: the content and customer engagement it created was of genuine benefit to bakingmad.com and we had access to their large community, a targeted audience that this particular title was perfect for.
We also encouraged further customer participation by making ten more signed copies available as runners up prizes to the entrants whose cake decorating efforts attracted the most admiration online from other bakingmad members. More than 500 people entered and the quality of those entries was astounding. Choosing a shortlist to pass on to Mich was at least as hard a task as decorating the cakes. (I imagine!)
We engaged Mich’s existing networks effectively too, and to my mind it’s vital not to assume that existing ‘fans’ of any author or brand will automatically buy their book on publication. In addition to a bespoke e-flyer sent to Little Venice Cake Company’s customer database, and print flyers inserted in all cake orders sent by mail or courier, we ensured Mich regularly updated her facebook page to encourage friends and followers to enter the competition.
Video trailers for books are nothing new, but for this title we wanted to create something that would be of actual use to our target market, rather than simply a flashy awareness-raising tool. We filmed Mich presenting one of the simplest, but most effective decorating techniques detailed in the book – how to make a perfect sugar-paste rose in under five minutes. Having the video as content on bakingmad.com was just the beginning. It’s been viewed nearly 10,000 times on youtube, as well as thousands more on goodtoknow.co.uk – the website for Womens Own, Now, Chat, Woman, Women’s Weekly and Pick Me Up, and on retailer sites including Amazon and via the Book Depository. The latter included the video in their newsletter, sent to around 3 million customers.
As well as usefulness, we wanted our video trailer to give potential customers a concrete sense of the book without them having to pick it up in a bricks and mortar bookshop – something that we all know is happening less and less. Mich’s presenting in the clip is interspersed with beautiful shots of the book itself and convincingly conveys its impressive quality. Whilst publishers must be careful about giving too much away for free, content is crucial for an online campaign. Trailers like this can be shot well, cheaply.
Exploiting social media and forging partnerships can amplify campaigns without large marketing budgets. With the right partner, the right platform and activity that is of genuine benefit to both parties, it’s not necessary to spend thousands to achieve results.
Mich Turner is not a household name (yet), but she is a leader in her field, meaning we were able to secure interest from a brand within that field, despite the fact that their customers may not all have heard of her. The campaign allowed us to build her profile within Bakingmad’s large community, the exact target market for the book, on their actual site, on facebook and on twitter. Plus, our video allowed us to leverage the attractive, useful content of the book to vastly increase the reach of our marketing activity. The result? Mich Turner’s Cake Masterclass sold three times as many copies in its first three months as her last title did, and we went back for a reprint less than twelve weeks after original publication.