Flour Power: King Arthur Flour and the Power of Community-Focused Marketing

May 27, 2020

King Arthur Flour Instagram Image of a Pizza

How King Arthur Flour Turned a Kitchen Staple into the Centerpiece of a Vibrant Online Community


King Arthur Flour
, founded in 1790, is the country’s oldest flour company, and yet the brand has never been more popular. If you needed any evidence of this, try ordering a five-pound bag of flour during these months of quarantine. In March alone, the company sold 6.1 million bags of all-purpose flour, a 268% increase from the year before. King Arthur could have sold even more flour this spring if they’d been able to meet consumer demand. According to Carey Underwood, director of mission-driven partnerships at King Arthur Flour, the company’s supply chain simply couldn’t work fast enough to keep its online store stocked or to keep its products on grocery store shelves.

But even discounting the extraordinary circumstances—and the extraordinary sales—King Arthur has managed to accomplish a rare feat: turn a brand that sells a commodity, a basic kitchen staple, into a lifestyle brand driven by a passionate, loyal, and vibrant online community. How King Arthur managed to build this community may seem at first glance like magic, but in fact it’s part of a long-term strategy that many brands, no matter their category or industry, can learn from.

 

By building a physical space to supplement the brand’s online presence, King Arthur has created a must-visit destination for all bakers.

King Arthur Flour Instagram Image of a Baker

1. Quality Produces Loyalty

The first step for any brand trying to build a vibrant online community is to produce products that consumers can get excited about. So what makes flour from King Arthur so special? Why is it the go-to flour for every professional—and passionate amateur—baker? After all, isn’t flour just flour?

One cooking website puts it succinctly: “All of King Arthur’s flour products contain only the highest grade of American wheat and contain no artificial enhancements. White flours are carefully milled from the innermost heart of the wheat berry, which contains the richest gluten-producing protein.”

The brand’s commitment to producing only the best flour milled from the best ingredients means consumers are willing to pay a higher price tag. It also means the brand can utilize what we call the “pro logic” as a community-building strategy: passionate amateurs will always flock to brands and products that are endorsed by the professionals and category influencers. If popular baking blogs, such as Smitten Kitchen, are constantly recommending King Arthur flours in recipes, their readers will listen.

This “pro logic” has another benefit: it drives passionate amateurs that engage in other online baking communities to become members of King Arthur’s own online baking community—active in the comments sections of its blog posts and instructional videos and following along on social media. And then, once amateur bakers have consumed content from King Arthur’s online community, they go back to their other online baking communities as evangelists for the King Arthur brand, completing the virtuous circle that makes the “pro logic” such a powerful marketing tool.

King Arthur Flour Instagram Image of a Cast Iron Skillet
King Arthur Flour Instagram Image of a Pizza

2. Engaging and Inclusive Content

In order to secure the loyalty of all the amateur bakers who flock to the King Arthur website after a recommendation from their favorite baking blog, the brand needs to provide these online visitors with consistently engaging content. Lots of it. Content is king for any brand looking to build a long-term and loyal consumer following. Brands can also convert loyalists into brand evangelists by arming them with branded content they then share across their own online and social media communities.

Successful brands like King Arthur Flour don’t limit themselves to a simple post-it-and-forget-it content strategy. Take King Arthur’s blog, for example. Not only are the pieces beautifully written, styled, and photographed, but the blog is also frequently updated and wonderfully organized and curated. Most importantly, it’s a place where the brand continually engages with its consumers. In a recent post about substituting bread flour for all-purpose flour, readers posted dozens of comments and questions, and someone from King Arthur’s content team responded to almost every single one, personally, with lengthy and expert answers.

Now that’s how you build a loyal online following. Brands can’t just say they care about their community—they have to prove it.

And King Arthur’s content also goes way beyond just written articles. The brand’s series of instructional videos is a godsend to any baker, no matter their level of expertise. The crucial point about these videos is that they aren’t just sales tools masquerading as real content. In this video on how to braid a three-strand loaf of bread, you won’t find a single bit of the usual infomercial-style language that clutters other brands’ video content. It’s simple, informative, and useful.

All of King Arthur’s video content treats consumers like they are valuable members of the community, as opposed to outsiders who exist only to be sold something.

 

All of King Arthur’s video content treats consumers like they are valuable members of the community, as opposed to outsiders who exist only to be sold something.

King Arthur Flour Instagram Image of Baking Class

3. Create Real-Life Community Experiences

One of the reasons King Arthur has the ability to produce such great content is because the brand operates a dedicated test kitchen and content studio at their flagship campus in beautiful Norwich, Vermont. The campus includes a store that is every baker’s fantasy, as well as a café where visitors can sample the perfect versions of their favorite recipes. By building a physical space to supplement the brand’s online presence, King Arthur has created a must-visit destination for all bakers.

King Arthur’s home in Norwich also offers brand loyalists who want to take their love to the next level the chance to attend baking school in the same kitchens where all the online magic happens. Real-life experiences are the capstone of any brand’s community-building efforts. King Arthur offers classes for every level of baker, from a beginner who needs instruction on the basics of bread making to professional pastry chefs who need a skills tune-up.

By engaging bakers at every level of the food chain, King Arthur is able to create memories that are then filtered up and down the community of passionate bakers—professionals and bloggers will write about their experience in Norwich on their food blog or in an interview, and readers will comment on those pieces about their own classes. In this way, a real-life branded experience is both an extension and a validation of the online community.

Best of all, real-life experiences create the kind of meaningful, personal connections and friendships that hold every community together.

 

Passionate amateurs will always flock to brands and products that are endorsed by the professionals and category influencers.

King Arthur Flour Instagram Image of Baked Goods

The New American Middle Values Community

At Britton Marketing & Design Group, we spend a lot of time thinking about how to help brands engage with a group of consumers that we call the New American Middle. After years of research, we’ve discovered that the New American Middle is driven by four core values: family, community, sustainability, and spirituality. 

King Arthur Flour is a perfect example of how brands can engage the core value of community, especially in a virtual sense. The exceptional content created by the team at King Arthur Flour seeks to connect with consumers, many of whom reside within the New American Middle demographic, and this creates a unique kind of community—a place, physical or online, that brings people together around a common passion. 

And passion is what community is all about, and that’s something brands can’t fake—more than any other group of consumers, those within the New American Middle are expert at sniffing out inauthenticity. But with King Arthur Flour, being authentic is never a problem, because for the past 230 years, the brand has remained committed to delivering only the best-quality products—and to bringing bakers together with the power of really great flour.

Photos: King Arthur Flour and Instagram

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