An online cooking school

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One of the uniquely persuasive aspects of the web is its ability to encourage consumers to become participants in the advertising and marketing process. When consumers feel as if they have a personal investment in the product, they are more apt to become loyal, return consumers. E-tailing can make using a product an experience and a part of the consumer’s identity, rather than simply a choice in the supermarket, which can be easily affected by price. Using e-tailing has enabled many brand name products and services to expand their market base through the use of interactive online communities, which offer message boards, games, and review sites. Whether a product, such as a type of cereal, or a service, such as Weight Watchers diet services, having a website can be an important part of a persuasive strategy, either providing a venue to purchase products online with a ‘click,’ to provide the convenience of online shopping or simply to reinforce and enhance brick and mortar sales.

For example, this can be seen on the Betty Crocker website, where the company offers a selection of frequently updated recipes using its products. The products are often showcased in a seasonally appropriate fashion, to encourage consumers to bake using Betty Crocker items for the holiday. Individuals looking for recipes for holidays and family meals may search the web, find the site for a specific recipe, and become drawn into the company’s community and share recipes and tips. There are standard product promotions, such as printable coupons for mixes and ready-made company products, but also more subtle encouragements to buy Betty Crocker items through promoting recipes that use Betty Crocker products to create unusual and elaborate dishes. The persuasive message of the website reaches both types of target consumers: busy parents who make from mixes, as well as more ambitious bakers. Consumers can also buy Betty Crocker cookbooks on the website. Thus, on the site, a number of potential transactions can occur, including standard ‘click’ transactions, where consumers access recipes and promotions solely available online, as well as ‘click and brick’ transactions that enable web-surfers to buy magazines and cookbooks which are available online and in brick-and-mortar bookstores. Certain products are only available in standard brick and mortar stores, like the mixes themselves, but to use them in ‘out of the box’ ways that show a cook’s true dedication to their family, the cook must use the Betty Crocker website.

Although the Betty Crocker site is largely promotional and offers free content, some companies such as Cook’s Illustrated have created for-pay recipe websites, based upon brand loyalty. One possible persuasive message that could monetize the use of providing recipes and skill-based cooking online might be to have a paid ‘cooking school’ where users could pay for a short how-to courses in cooking, and then post an online video of themselves completing the recipe, which would then be critiqued by an instructor. While the school itself would solely be ‘click,’ the site could also offer cookbooks that could be bought both online and at bookstores, for people who did not want to take every course, but liked the approach of the site. And the site could have joint ‘brick-based’ promotions with various types of cooking supply and food supply companies.

This website could capitalize upon the increased popularity of cooking at home, and the desire of people to learn how to cook, despite being pressed for time. The attractions of sharing with a community would mimic that of the types of communities created on blogs and through YouTube, but with more direction about how to cook. The persuasive message could underline, depending on the course, the health benefits of cooking your own food, the social and romantic benefits, and the personal enrichment aspects of learning how to cook. “Cooking is a great way to count calories;” “Cooking is the best way to a woman’s heart;” or “Finally cross learning how to cook off of your to-do list” are all potential slogans.

Many people have an interest in food today, as evidenced by the popularity of the film Julie and Julia, the book the Omnivore’s Dilemma, and the Food Network. The interest in local and sustainably-grown food indicates how people wish to improve their diets. Concerns about obesity are driving people into the kitchen — their own, and their children’s need to maintain a healthy weight has become a priority. However, many people never learned how to cook, because their mothers and fathers never learned how to cook, given the increased use of prepared and processed foods in the American diet. By tapping into anxieties about becoming overweight and unhealthy, and pairing this message with a desire to gain a more sophisticated understanding of how to improve one’s food intake, the website could mount a broad-based persuasive strategy that could interest many potential consumers. Even the advertising could reduce ‘noise’ of distracting messages, by focusing on sponsorship of sustainable, healthy, and gourmet products.

The message conveyed overall would be that an online cooking school is a wonderful way to learn how to cook quickly, and to share with like-minded people. Classes for parents enable mothers and fathers to share healthy recipes, while aspiring Emerils can take more complicated courses and get experience being television chef by posting home-style movies. The likely demographic for such a program would be technologically astute twentysomethings who enjoy taking digital pictures, making short videos, and engage similar technologically-forward pursuits that involve self-improvement (some might say self-promotion) while sharing with online friends.


Betty Crocker. (2010). Official Website. Retrieved March 14, 2010 at

Cook’s Illustrated. (2010). Official Website. Retrieved March 14, 2010 at