Background / The baking mix category is getting stale

Our team was tasked with bringing vibrant life to Betty Crocker and the baking mix category. The problem? Betty was getting stale. The baking mix category had been declining 2-3% year over year since 2015. And Betty Crocker was taking the biggest hit. To make matters worse, younger audiences (18-34) weren’t buying boxed cake mix like their parents.


Problem / Brands are going after bakers who aren’t interested in baking mix.

The latest offerings in the baking aisle today are mug cakes and “decadent” lines. The mug cakes are intended for Cravers. Cravers are guided by their bellies. They want something fast and mouthwatering. Mug Treats aren’t cutting it because even a microwave minute is too long for the munchies. Instead of Betty Crocker, cravers are reaching for a pint of ice cream to a tube of Oreos.

The decadent lines go for the Connoisseurs. They’re guided by their heads. They want to make something elaborate with high-quality ingredients. And it’s not going to be a boxed cake mix. Products like Duncan Hines’ Decadent German Chocolate Cake are insulting to the connoisseur, who prefers grandma’s recipe.

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Opportunity / People use Betty Crocker to say they care.

We thought that people might say boxed mix was less worthy of praise - that it was a cop-out. That “real” friends baked from scratch. But no! As long as you cracked an egg, baked goods were a tremendous gift. As one person put it - “it’s a BIG deal when someone goes to the trouble of baking a cake for me.” These cake-gifters are the Carers. They’re guided by their hearts and they bake to show they care. They’re no experts, but to them, the egg-cracking-batter-stirring-oven pre-heating process conveys a level of care that other gifts don’t.

But the current format of standard baking mix wasn’t working for carers because each box contains 16 servings. So we set out to create a message and a product that spoke to the Carers.

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Solution / Plant Betty Crocker in the greeting card aisle

If cake is about saying what you really mean (and not just birthdays), it’s actually a communication tool. Which means that it shouldn’t be in the baking aisle. It should be in the card aisle. We planted Betty Crocker in the greeting card aisle to create more bake-worthy occasions and inspire the occasional baker to pick up our box more often.

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“Say it like you mean it” card aisle installation

We created a Betty Crocker “Say it like you mean it” installation in the card aisle, and transformed the packaging to reflect our new position. Instead of labeling cake solely by flavor, we labeled it by message - Sorry, Thanks, and I Love You.


Reimagining the packaging and product offerings

In addition to labeling the cakes by message (rather than flavor), we downsized them to make only 4 servings, and included everything from a recyclable pan to an icing pen and message stencil. This keeps cake-gifting from being a complicated time-suck.

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Taking cake beyond the kitchen

In order to get the Betty Crocker brand in front of consumers beyond grocery and convenience stores, we creaked a cake meme generator and pop-up food truck. The meme generator allows users to make custom memes, and we imagine users could call out inauthentic forms of communication - like a birthday wall post, or a LinkedIn congratulations. The tool could also be used in the Betty Crocker social media to make a stir. The “Say it with cake” food truck would pop up at events that are centered around important messages - like on election days - and cupcakes would be sold to people, who could decorate them with individual messages.


Why it makes sense for Betty Crocker

Caregiving is at the core of the Betty Crocker brand. But in 2018, the image of the traditional homemaker isn’t exactly relevant. So we found a new take on care that didn’t feel limiting or gender-specific. The update to the packaging, both in content and in message, encourages more everyday baking, achieving the goal of growing the category through the brand.

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I designed the qualitative research with two key questions in mind: 1) Why are people baking less? 2) What does baking mean when they do bake?

Man on the street interviews

We learned that the latest category innovation, the mug cake, was unpopular for quick indulgence because even a microwave minute was too long for the munchies. Other offerings, like the SuperMoist and Decadent lines, weren’t resonating because when people were looking for elaborate, “fancy” confections, they bought premium ingredients - not boxed mix.


“Baking a mug cake takes too long - even if it’s in the microwave”


“If i’m making something special, I’m going to use my grandmother’s recipe”


Focus groups

We learned that baking a cake didn’t come to mind for everyday acts of care because boxed cake was too big (16 servings!). People said things like, “I only bake when I have an occasion.” When it came to telling a friend you cared, people bought a plant and wrote a note.

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My role

2 Focus groups
5 Store checks
10 Man on the street interviews
Baking category messaging audit
Strategic framework
Collaborated on brief writing
Plenty of cake baking


Chorong Kim (Fellow Strategist)
Gabi Levi (Creative Brand Manager)
Ruthie Edwards (Experience Designer)
Chad Hilton (Experience Designer)
Alec Milton (Art Director)
Josh Perry (Copywriter)
Mary Gray Johnson (Strategist)