Creative Cage Match: King Arthur Flour vs. Cook's Illustrated
There’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond.
So, once a month I’m going to select two marketers and toss them into a Creative Cage Match. I’ll be looking at everything ranging from email to direct mail, website to mobile site. It’ll be a mix of objective and subjective, and each time a marketer will walk out of the ring triumphantly.
The mercury keeps rising in our thermometers here in Philly, but just because I have no desire to cook or bake in this heat doesn't mean someone else in a more temperate climate isn't looking for a new recipe to try or kitchen gadget to pick up. I say go ahead, enjoy ... I'll be over here eating a caprese salad and fanning myself.
On this side of the ring we have King Arthur Flour (KAF), a Norwich, Vt.-based supplier of flour, baking mixes, ingredients, cookbooks and baked goods. Founded in 1790 in Boston, Mass. under the name Sand, Taylor & Wood Company, KAF is an employee-owned company and is considered one of the best places to work for in the state of Vermont. Aside from their online presence — including a fully e-commerce site and blog — this baker's paradise also has a print catalog.
And in the opposite corner we have Cook's Illustrated, an American cooking magazine published by Brookline, Mass.-based America's Test Kitchen (ATK). ATK produces several other publications, along with a cooking show, radio program, cookbooks ... you name it, they're involved. Cook's Illustrated itself is bi-monthly, accepts no advertising and provides extensively tested recipes, as well as super thorough product reviews.
Email vs. Email
Most emails I received from cooking- or baking-based services/publications get my attention right away, due to my personal interest. But with these two contenders, I'm curious to see who gets the hot, summer food vibe right. Let's start with King Arthur Flour:
The subject line reads: "The Complete Guide to Scone Baking," and while I do love scones, I don't think I'll be firing my oven up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit anytime soon.
That said, if it's not 93 and humid where you live, KAF does provide the full shebang when it comes to scones. Clicking through on the call-to-action button for the guide takes you to a highly visual web page that walks you through the basics of scone making, offers some tips to up your scone game, provides some recipes, as well as contact info for the Baker's Hotline.
If you stick with the email, you're rewarded with a legit scones baking tip, more recipes as well as some essential gadgets and a blog post on prepping scones ahead.
So, while I think an email about baking scones is a bit off for July, I think King Arthur Flour did an excellent job providing its subscribers with valuable content.
Now that we've handled our baking needs, let's look at the email Cook's Illustrated sent:
It's part of the "Well-Equipped Series" which read more like an e-newsletter than a typical promotional piece from them (and one of the reasons I subscribe). The subject line reads: "The Well-Equipped Cook: The Best Gadgets When You’re on the Go." I appreciate front-loading with the series name, which clues me in a few seconds faster than usual that this is definitely a message I want to read sooner rather than later.
As for content, the Well-Equipped Series is always packed, linking out to guides and videos, as well as providing quick tips, recipes and reviews. There's a lot to lose yourself in, and I appreciate that the emails are always tightly themed.
Now, as for the specifics of the content, I feel Cook's Illustrated hits seasonality on the head. From the email:
Whether you’re traveling across town for a party or venturing across the country on a road trip, summer’s adventures require some special equipment. In this week’s buying guide, we’ve selected the best gear for transporting food and drink easily and safely. From our favorite refillable water bottle to the cake carrier made for bumpy car rides, these test kitchen-approved gadgets will make sure your food arrives without any accidents.
That's exactly the kind of stuff I want to read about in the summer (since I spend more time in the car traveling those months).
So this month's winner? While I think King Arthur Flour is on point with its valuable content game, it loses out this time on seasonality. I'd much rather read about good gadgets for road trips and how to throw a lobster party over scone baking.
Cook's Illustrated, I declare you the winner. Now to go hide next to my AC until October hits ...