How Great Jones Cookware Rebranded the Old American Dream for the New American Middle
August 25, 2021
Finding Blank Space Growth Opportunities Within Community and Authenticity Values
For decades, marketing to the middle class was about appealing to people who wanted what was coined as the American dream: a steady income, a nice home (preferably with a white picket fence), modern conveniences, and a little left over to save for the future. Advertisers were focused on selling a set of clearly defined aspirations that they spoon-fed to the masses.
But today’s middle class is an entirely different proposition. And within this group, we’ve identified a large and important subset—an emerging consumer supergroup we call the New American Middle (NAM). The NAM is more than the sum of their economic, political, and educational statistics. Instead, what defines this categorical group is what unites them: values.
The NAM we now know is a highly divergent supergroup that lives and works in the ever-evolving digital communities and in our neighborhoods. Their values and beliefs are far from those of the traditional nuclear families we used to see on TV sitcoms.
In contrast to the traditional two-parent family of married mother and father bringing up their biological children, we now have a menagerie of alternate family forms: cohabiting couples with children; single-parent families; blended families; same-sex couples raising children conceived and born in a variety of unconventional ways; and so on.
The average NAM consumer encounters an estimated 6,000 to 10,000 ads per day, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to cut through the clutter and reach them through the right marketing channels at the right time.
Great Jones Cookware is one brand that got the new recipe right. They’ve taken great care to understand and appeal to the core values of their new audience and market to them where they live (mostly online). The result? One of today’s most hip, sought-after cookware brands.
Getting a Handle on What Resonates with the New American Middle
The idea for Great Jones was born when former New York food editor Sierra Tishgart wanted to upgrade her cookware but didn’t want to spend a fortune on high-end pots and pans. Her search for quality, affordable products left her frustrated. So, after much contemplation, she took the plunge, quit her job, and focused on creating a modern, attainable kitchenware brand that appealed to like-minded consumers.
Tishgart spoke to chefs, friends, cookbook authors, and marketing gurus to uncover what was important to her audience. She tested her ideas, hired manufacturing experts, and paid attention to the mentality of her audience, as well as the physical quality of her products.
Tishgart teamed up with a childhood friend, Maddy Moelis, who came from a start-up background to help with the business and logistics side. Moelis had worked for brands including Warby Parker and Zola, so she understood the passion and grit it took to pursue a giant market like cookware. It’s worth noting that both women had quite a head start with the support of a tight-knit group of highly affluent friends and family. In fact, Moelis’s father, Ron Moelis—whom critics have called the “Gentrification King”—is the multimillionaire real-estate mogul and affordable-housing developer behind Essex Crossing, a six-acre development on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Her uncle Ken Moelis is a billionaire investment banker.
With plenty of cash in hand, the pair began their entrepreneurial vision by surveying family and friends, and friends of friends, until it became clear that they weren’t the only ones who felt the way they did. It turns out almost 75% of the people they interviewed wanted to upgrade their cookware and felt similar frustrations. This was the confirmation both needed to dig in, get investors and launch Great Jones—a line of beautifully designed cookware with extremely wide appeal.
Unlike their predecessors, Great Jones wanted their cookware to be affordable. They bundled their entire Family Style pot and pan set and made it available for $395—almost half of what you’d pay for high-end heritage brands like All-Clad and Le Creuset. They plastered it all over Instagram and other online channels, and it was an instant hit.
So, what makes this brand so relatable to the NAM? A combination of modern marketing that’s rarely seen from today’s big brands:
FOCUS ON VALUES-DRIVEN BRANDING
Tishgart and Moelis understood that they weren’t reinventing cookware. Sure, they wanted to develop products with great features and benefits, but they also wanted their brand to have purpose and reflect the values they shared with their like-minded consumers.
Great Jones worked to go beyond what the big-box retailers offer:
- They created an online community on their website that featured great recipes from their followers, like Johanna Hellrigl’s Oven-Baked Frittata and Dan Pelosi’s Sheet Pan Sausage and Peppers.
- Since most of their customers were eco-conscious, they offered special Great Jones totes that made for less wasteful trips to the grocery.
- They created a potline where customers could text for real-time cooking advice and recipe suggestions, as many of them were aspiring cooks but by no means experts.
- They created fun, relatable icons for each product to make it more convenient to visualize features and benefits.
These values-driven extras aligned with their customers’ desire to be part of a community, to be less wasteful, to have real-time access to answers, and to enjoy a brand’s personality through its visuals. And these are exactly the kind of differences the NAM is looking for when choosing a brand.
When they find a brand, or product, that resonates with who they are and expresses similar values and beliefs, not only will they choose to buy it, but they will become loyal to it as well. To them, these brands stand high above what they see as the uncaring giants.
UTILIZE SOCIAL TO SCALE
The Great Jones marketing team was socially savvy, having grown up using platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. They knew that social media was the rocket fuel they needed to launch quickly and scale their business.
Their online tone was one of “I get you” and “I got you,” and they smartly gave their brand a sense of humor with clever names for their cookware, including a cookie pan named “Holy Sheet” and a Dutch oven dubbed “The Duchess.”
Great Jones had a ready-made route to market that looked right at home in their customers’ feeds. By going the direct-to-consumer route, with social media enabling them to scale without major costs, they quickly formed a loyal community of followers.
Create A Genuine Brand Personality
Today’s consumers, especially the NAM, are looking for platforms where they can interact with brands that have a personality. They want to buy from companies who present themselves as a friend and bring their product to life with frequent social posts and stories.
For Great Jones, this ethos is visualized by giving their products fun names (as mentioned above) but also by offering a range of cool colors like Broccoli, Blueberry, Earl Grey, and more. It’s also reinforced by their grassroots story of two childhood friends making a go of it and by the online community they have created that feels warm, relatable, and authentic.
But don’t even try to fake it. The NAM has an uncanny way of sensing when they are being “had,” and not only will they shy away from your brand, but they will also influence their friends and families to steer clear, too. According to NAM research, brand transparency and authenticity are two incredibly important factors that influence brand purchase consideration.
Support Social Causes That align with your customer values
The NAM loves a good cause, but this is an area where some brands get themselves in trouble, especially if the cause goes against the grain of what their customers believe in. The NAM is quick to punish a brand whose values are misaligned with their own.
Over the last 10 to 15 years, boycotts have exploded in popularity, and the anti-Trump #GrabYourWallet campaign alone put almost 50 companies with ties to the president in activists’ sights. A 2020 Lending Tree survey found that 38% of Americans were taking part in a boycott of at least one company, compared to only 26% the previous year.
Last year was particularly volatile with outcries over brands’ responses to the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, two issues that have made consumers re-evaluate the types of businesses they buy from. This re-evaluation cuts along cultural lines, with almost the same number of people surveyed choosing to support and boycott businesses that publicly backed Black Lives Matter.
But as we addressed in an earlier blog on building brand loyalty, addressing social justice issues isn’t enough. According to a survey by Forrester, 68% of consumers say a company’s reputation for social responsibility impacts their purchasing decisions, while 41% of consumers say they want to buy from a company that shares their social, environmental, and political values. Learning what exactly these values are, and which values are the biggest drivers of purchasing, is key for brands like Great Jones to earn loyalty from their consumers.
HOW BMDG CAN HELP YOU FIND THE RIGHT MIX oF VALUES AND PERSONALITY FOR YOUR BRAND
At Britton Marketing & Design Group, our passion is helping clients develop values-driven brands and refine their personality through emotionally resonant creative. We also understand how to strategically and effectively deliver that creative to audiences across a multitude of platforms and channels.
This past year and a half has presented us all with challenges both politically and socially, and we have been devoted to helping our clients find new ways to get through it all with innovative e-commerce and other creative solutions.
Whatever challenges your brand may be facing as we crawl our way out of the pandemic, BMDG is here for you. With our understanding of the New American Middle, and our expert creative and strategy teams, we can help your brand reach new audiences and create a story that resonates with their values. Let’s talk!
And The Story Continues …
After publishing this content, BMDG was made aware that Great Jones had received some bad press in 2020 concerning the fallout between founders Tishgart and Moelis.
A year later, Great Jones said it’s doing better than ever. People close to the company paint what happened as an unfortunate but common start-up growing pain—about 45% of start-up founders break up within four years of launch.
The fallout did not come without a heap of brand-crushing banter, however. Critics were calling the two women “entitled rich kids” and some even attacked their cookware as “cheap and flimsy” while pointing out that none of it was US- made.
It’s a harsh reminder that no matter how diligent you are in building your brand, situations can pivot in an instant. As we always do, we will keep an eye out for how this brand attempts to rebound and garner any lessons learned that can help us navigate future situations for our own clients.