The Community-Building Secrets of Big Green Egg
November 16, 2020
The Story of How an Odd-Looking Grill Built a Cult-Like Following Offers Important Marketing Lessons for Every Brand
If you have attended a backyard barbeque recently, you might have noticed an oddly shaped grill that resembles a giant green egg. And if you spoke to the resident grillmaster, you probably heard him (or her) explain why this ceramic grill really is worth its $1,500+ price tag: versatility, temperature precision, and intensity and duration of heat.
Big Green Egg isn’t a new company—it was founded in 1974 in Atlanta, Georgia—but sales of its Japanese-inspired Kamado grills have skyrocketed in the past few years. The engine pushing much of this growth is its community of “Eggheads,” as the brand’s cultish loyalists are known. Like other brands whose satisfied customers serve as unofficial evangelists, Big Green Egg helps to fan the flames of devotion by doing it can to promote this community of fans, including advertising on its website all the annual “EGGfests.”
A brand can only do so much to promote, or even control, organic enthusiasm for its products. However, there are steps brands can take to help create the conditions for a thriving consumer community.
Brands that Obsess Over Customers = Obsessed Customers
Cars. Boots. Beauty products. These consumer goods categories share one thing in common: consumers obsess over them, and that obsession drives brand loyalty. You’re not a car enthusiast—Subaru fans only buy “Subies,” and Jeep drivers honk and wave at each other. Men never own just one pair of Red Wing boots—they own half a dozen. Women don’t just randomly shop online for beauty products—they follow their favorite brands on Instagram, waiting for news of the latest products.
Grilling, and Big Green Egg, falls into this same category. Grilling enthusiasts don’t just “own” a grill—they are either Weber loyalists or Blackstone evangelists or Traeger aficionados. Big Green Egg has perhaps the most rabid following, as evidenced by its many online communities.
Brands that create obsession are obsessively focused on their consumers, even after the consumer has handed over their money. For example, Big Green Egg publishes a print magazine that is available for free at authorized dealers and features recipes and grilling tips. This may seem like a small, and rather old-fashioned, marketing tool, but to Big Green Egg enthusiasts it communicates something else: that the brand cares about them, and their experience with the product, long after the purchase has been made.
Big Green Egg’s most important marketing tool doesn’t cost a cent. Just take a moment and type “Big Green Egg” into YouTube. Your search will result in thousands of how-to and review videos. Some of the videos are produced by the brand, but the vast majority are user-generated, whether it’s “Easy Pork Butt Recipe for Pulled Pork Smoked on Big Green Egg” from the HowToBBQRight channel, with over a million subscribers, or “Cedar Grilled Salmon on the Big Green Egg” from CookwithKait and her 193 subscribers.
The Big Green Egg community has always had a large online presence, and now social media, and especially YouTube, is vastly increasing the size and reach of that community. Online and social media communities are built on the foundation of a shared passion, and even the most niche pursuits, such as beekeeping, have passionate social media communities.
One of the challenges, and the beauties, of community-generated content is that brands can’t control it. However, one thing Big Green Egg has done to help cheer on its community is investing time and money into its own videos, which go way beyond your average product promo video. The Grilling Show from the Big Green Egg features the in-depth cooking instruction with which consumers are familiar from The Food Network. By helping its community become more knowledgeable about the full range of the Big Green Egg’s capabilities—how to grill Arctic Char, how to smoke ham—they are giving community members the tools to create even more of their own content.
Controlling the Point of Distribution
Unlike most other grill brands, you can’t buy a Big Green Egg at your local Home Depot or on Amazon. While this may seem like a disadvantage for the brand, it’s actually one of the secrets to its success. By relying on a network of authorized dealers (mostly local hardware and garden stores) that have a deep knowledge of the product, the brand is able to control the consumer experience far more easily than it could in a big-box retail environment.
This is especially true when it comes to e-commerce. Until recently, you simply could not buy a Big Green Egg online, but that changed when the brand launched its own online store in early 2020. The store sells more than just grills—fans can purchase branded grilling tools, accessories, and swag. And because the brand controls the e-commerce experience, they can control the content on every product page, ensuring that the accompanying product videos, descriptions, and reviews place the brand in the best possible light.
Brands that own their e-commerce experience are able to more tightly control their brand’s image. This is especially true when it comes to online community management, i.e., the ability to manage negative reviews, and to more quickly and efficiently connect with consumers who have questions or concerns. Controlling the e-commerce experience also allows brands to distinguish themselves from all the imitators or knockoffs that clutter platforms like Amazon.
How BMDG Can Help Your Brand Build a Fanatical Community
At BMDG, we have a long list of clients that we’ve helped inspire a passionate fan base, from Arhaus’s home décor obsessives to the paint perfectionists who turn to Pratt & Lambert for the brand’s color expertise.
Another client we’ve helped to build a deeper connection with its consumers is Pyrex. Pyrex has been a staple for generations of home cooks, and we wanted to make sure that connection endured. Our “Make It With Love, Share It With Pyrex” campaign, which included a landing page, email marketing, social media, and in-store signage, encouraged Pyrex loyalists to share the brand’s products as they passed family recipes and traditions to the next generation.
After all this work, we’ve learned an important lesson: at the heart of every successful brand is a team of people that is more obsessed with the brand than even its most devoted loyalists.