Campbell’s Soup & Duncan Hines

A few years ago, I asked my mother, who’d seen a lot of changes over her lifetime, what technology or product she thought changed her life the most. I expected she would say the telephone, automatic transmission or Pampers. She thought for a minute, went to our kitchen cupboard and pulled out a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and a box of Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix.

Campbell’s Soup
“This,” she said, “made me a better mother,” pointing to the can of tomato soup. “This is what I gave you every day at lunch and you liked it. It wasn’t just good. It was MMMmm good. It gave me confidence that I could be a good mom.”

Good soup. Good mom. I remember walking home from elementary school for lunch everyday. My mom was right. That bowl of soup was a symbol of connection and consistency. My mother associated that product with something that was important to her…giving my brother and me food we liked. Of course, the product itself had nothing to do with being a good mother. But that’s what it meant to her.

And it must have done the same for millions of other moms. 89% percent of American households purchase Campbell’s soups with an average of eleven cans of Campbell’s soup in their pantries at all times. It has a 69 percent share of the U.S. wet soup market, selling almost three billion cans of soup every year. At a 15%-28% price premium.

Duncan Hines Chocolate Cake Mix
As for the cake mix box, what did it contain? Flour, sugar and chocolate flavoring, all ingredients she had in the cupboard as well. So why was this one of her top contenders for innovation of a lifetime? “It was so easy, we could do it together,” she said. “You couldn’t blow it.”

The Promise of a Brand
Campbell’s soup and Duncan Hines cake mixes aren’t just products. They’re brands that have associations with values to which parents and kids can connect: good mothering, sharing and, if I daresay, love. When you think about the ‘benefits’ these products fulfill, it’s easy to jump platitudes like convenience or simplicity. But the real value isn’t in the convenience. It’s in the associations that are important to the people that buy and use these products. We all have both simple and more complex needs. To the extent that products can address some of the deeper more complex issues that customers deal with, the greater the chance you’ll have stronger associations and possibly a strong brand.