My family watches the cooking competition show Chopped as if it were the Super Bowl. I'm pretty sure the neighbors assumed we were sports enthusiasts with all the screaming and "couch coaching"--until they realized that we're yelling things like, "Come on, Charles! Thirty seconds left! Plate that sucker!!"
We, like millions of other families in America, are food show junkies.
Programs Chopped, Beat Bobby Flay, and Cutthroat Kitchen (my personal fave) have inspired many to dice, poach, sear, sauté, and maybe even use that Dutch oven that's been collecting dust. The trouble is, the chefs on these shows make it look so easy; many food show fans go into the kitchen with great intentions and leave feeling like a total loser.
Blue Apron recognized the educational void for the multitude of home cooks and built a wildly successful business around feeding them, while sharpening their kitchen prowess. Each week, subscribers receive a box of recipes created by a five-star chef and the pre-measured ingredients to cook them. The founders knew they were onto something special when their subscription base literally exploded within the first year. In 2015, the company grew by 500 percent, delivering 5 million meals to subscribers per month.
The incredible success of Blue Apron is largely attributed to two things:
1. The company's ability to create a service that expertly meets the needs of the cooking public.
2. The team's ability to translate that excellence into an irresistible content marketing plan.
Blue Apron's strategy is always to generate excitement about a dish before it's ever delivered to the door. Senior director of marketing Rani Yadav was kind enough to share how that all plays out.
"Product experience was first and foremost," she says. "The recipes are created by an accomplished culinary team, but are created to be accessible to home chefs of all skill levels. Users have a sense of pride and accomplishment about the dishes they cook. A family might normally make spaghetti, but with Blue Apron, they'd make something like Sumac Spiced Salmon and Labneh."
That's one of the keys. Blue Apron makes it so easy for everyday people to cook these fancy dishes--some of which they've never even heard of!
So leading up to the release of a recipe, the Blue Apron team creates fun and fascinating articles about the dish, where it came from, what techniques are used, and traditions surrounding it. So when subscribers finally do cook it, they're extremely knowledgeable about their creation and naturally want to show it off to their social networks!
To date, Blue Apron has cultivated 1.2 million fans on Facebook who proudly showcase their masterpieces. "The engagement on social is what's most astounding," Rani says. "You can't buy people to comment and talk about your brand with the love and enthusiasm that our community does. And these are people who would never talk to each other in the real world, but on our social-media channels they're sharing tips about cooking bok choy--it's so fun to see!"
Rani goes onto say that education is key. "We want people to cook because it's fun. So we equip them with knowledge on our website--even if they don't use our service. We find this to be the best way to build trust and loyalty."
It's a common practice for websites to "sell" their visitors at every turn--but as this particular story illustrates, that's not often the best strategy. As you develop your own content marketing strategy, don't just look for a quick sell. Look towards creating long-lasting relationships with your visitors. Rani and the Blue Apron team will tell you, it's one of the most rewarding aspects of their job.
"Everything we do is in service of making cooking fun and easy for our home chefs," she says. "By using that lens to develop content, product features, and recipes, we're able to create an experience that our customers want to make part of their daily lives, and they stick with us. We constantly get love letters from customers saying we've saved their marriage, given them confidence in the kitchen, or helped them get their kids interested in cooking. That customer feedback motivates our team every day."