KitchenAid’s Marketing Recipe for Success
July 16, 2020
Take a helpful kitchen innovation. Add color, features to taste, and a generous amount of customer care. Stir to combine.
Almond Cream. Green Apple. Toffee Delight. Despite the sensory sumptuousness they evoke, these delicious descriptions are not ingredients listed on a dessert menu. They are just a few of the colors available for KitchenAid stand mixers. Having celebrated its hundredth anniversary in 2019, this iconic brand has managed to remain as fresh as ever, even claiming the honor of being the brand most often selected by members of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
But how can a manufacturer of now-standard kitchen essentials become a household name—much less a kind of status symbol? Though KitchenAid is not the only kitchenware brand of its kind to achieve success in such substantial proportions, it was (and is) one of the frontrunners of fashionable kitchen appliance designs. Let’s take a look at how it all began.
Made to Aid
Developed as an all-inclusive countertop tool back in 1919, the flagship Model H-5 KitchenAid mixer emerged as a multi-attachment food-prep wonder that helped home cooks do it all—from slicing to stirring to straining—with a single ultra-versatile appliance.
During the Great Depression, when it was all most businesses could do to survive an economy in freefall, KitchenAid was steeped in product R&D, introducing the now instantly recognizable stand mixer silhouette in the form of the Model “K” in 1937. Later on, the brand’s revolutionary new dishwasher, available in a choice of classic white or pale pink, would be KitchenAid’s first tentative dip into the realm of color-trended home appliances.
Following the leaner years of the Great Depression and the Second World War, Americans were more intent than ever on making their houses feel like home, a place to entertain friends and invite color in unexpected places. The economy was booming once again, women were assuming their prewar roles in the household, and cooking at home became less about subsisting and more about expressing personal tastes.
New innovations helped make light work of household tasks; colorful kitchenware made them seem more fun and personal. Kitchens were no longer strictly functional; suddenly, they had become living spaces as well—a place to enjoy a cup of coffee with a neighbor, to congregate for family dinners, and to curate appliances and accessories that would “harmonize with the rest of the kitchen’s decor.”
A Pinch of Personalization
Savvy marketers of the 1950s began to see the benefit of selling appliances with some flair, recognizing that consumers would invest more in a kitchen that allowed them to express some sense of style, something that was not part of their lives at all just a decade before. Marketers reasoned that money otherwise intended for, say, a new television or vehicle could instead be allocated to a dishwasher or stove in trend-forward colors that would make consumers’ homes feel more personally expressive and modern.
The changing landscape of advertising in that era—especially as the television became a fixture in more and more households—gave way to widespread exposure of current trends: keeping up with clothing and culinary fashions became the height of sophistication and status among midcentury housewives.
These evolving opinions and behaviors inspired KitchenAid designers to concoct new colorways for the iconic stand mixer in 1955, and ultra-modern options such as Island Green or Antique Copper could soon be found in kitchens across the country. For the first time, consumers were not motivated by price, features, and quality alone—they could also add to those considerations a broad palette of contemporary colors (and in some cases, willingly pay a bit more for the option).
A Dash of Marketing Strategy
The trend of colorful kitchenware that began in the ’30s continued through the middle of the century and beyond, with the pastel greens, blues, and yellows of the ’50s giving way to earthier Harvest Wheat and Avocado shades in the 1970s, light and bright colors closing out the 20th century, and a wide variety of color choices—from subtle to saturated—still in vogue today.
KitchenAid has never for a moment stopped evolving. In the 1980s, KitchenAid launched its first full line of large home appliances, and the early ’90s saw the unveiling of several small appliances, such as blenders and food processors, upholding the brand’s mission to help home cooks “get the most out of making.” Today, the brand’s online stand mixer customization tool allows buyers to select engraving options; various bowl patterns, materials, and finishes; and a bevy of helpful attachments. These features, among others, contribute to the brand’s prestige—and its perpetual appearance, season after season, on lists of must-have wedding registry items.
From a social media perspective, KitchenAid is winning across the board. The content is consistent, cleverly rendered, and harnesses some of the many tools that give brands of its ilk a leg up in both organic reach and customer satisfaction. The brand also scored an ideal product placement spot as the mixer of choice on the workbenches of The Great British Baking Show. The pretty pastel KSM175 models can be seen on each and every episode (with the exception of season three, when a highly controversial decision was made to switch to Kenwood mixers), complementing the tent’s décor and prompting many of the shows millions of viewers to inquire about the model online.
With each new age of kitchen innovation, KitchenAid has answered the call and helped home cooks do it better. Adamant about ensuring that everything KitchenAid-branded is top of the line, from promotions to products to the brand’s online presence itself, the brand has found great success on a number of online platforms, constantly monitoring and evaluating customer experience at every touchpoint to ensure that, even if the consumer is purchasing a KitchenAid product on eBay rather than direct from the site, they enjoy a comfortingly consumer-centric approach. For many consumers, purchasing a KitchenAid mixer continues to be a basic, yet very special, home investment—one that will last a lifetime, and for which color selection is all-important.
The Home Baking Boom of 2020
We’ve established that KitchenAid has experienced an impressive run for over a century, and that the nimbleness of their marketing and product innovations has made them a top choice for pros, amateurs, and prominent TV personalities well before this year. So why sing the praises of the humble stand mixer in 2020? Because this has been a blockbuster year for home bakers (and fans of banana bread, apparently).
If there’s one sentiment that the coronavirus crisis has impacted most significantly, it’s confidence. As a global community, our faith in what we know about ourselves, what we expect from others, even the small comforts we depend upon to get through a day, week, or month has been deeply shaken. And it’s no wonder. In what felt like no time at all, life as we know it changed.
But as so often happens in times of adversity, we find ourselves forced out of our comfort zones and into a more flexible, and creative, mindset. Most significantly, there has been a nationwide movement brought on by these unusual circumstances, and it has resulted in an increase in confidence of one kind in particular: the culinary sort.
In a time when Americans have been left with cleared calendars and so few options or incentive to dine out (in stark contrast to consumer behaviors in pre-pandemic times), an entirely new cadre of amateur cooks has emerged from thin air, ushering in a surge in home appliance sales. As drastically as the nationwide lockdowns disrupted our lifestyles, the newfound focus on family and homelife, a key value and driving force among members of the powerful demographic known as the New American Middle, felt to many like a literal homecoming, a return to our constructive and creative roots.
For this major (but often-overlooked) consumer group, finding healthier food sources for their families, perhaps even in their own backyard gardens, had been a focus before. But the extraordinary events of this year have provided them with an opportunity to reprioritize home life as something worth protecting and affecting positively, all while having a little fun in the process.
The order to stay at home has given those of us with busy lifestyles a chance to slow down, to take in our surroundings. Products and projects within the walls of our homes have suddenly taken center stage, and even as parts of the country begin to return to near-normalcy (at the time of this writing), those home-front dreams and new routines are still top of mind for many consumers.
KitchenAid.com’s global, country, and category rankings have been on the rapid rise, with over 2.5 million page visits in May 2020 alone (above and beyond April’s 2 million visits, which was up a whopping 84% from the previous month). The vast majority of this search traffic is organic. And though these increases may level off, the changing attitudes toward food and cooking are expected to have far-reaching effects well beyond the global health crisis.