This Thursday those of us in the United States will celebrate Thanksgiving Day — and, along with it, a tradition that dates all the way back to 1981!
I’m talking, of course, about the Butterball Turkey Talk Line — the go-to crisis center for all things turkey. This was a brilliantly innovative idea from the folks at Butterball!
At the core, it’s a simple idea, based on a common problem: cooking a turkey. Most people only do it once a year, and it’s really difficult to get it right. And then there’s the pressure! The turkey is the Thanksgiving centerpiece — the main event — and the entire family is watching (watching…and judging). And, prior to 1981, your only support system was your dog-eared copy of The Joy of Cooking — well, that and the dubious advice from your weird relatives.
Enter the people at Butterball with their innovative idea: Let’s get some turkey-cooking experts (initially, six of them), put ’em in a call center, and let people call in with their turkey questions for free.
It was a huge hit! The first year, they answered 11,000 cooking questions; now they routinely get ten times that amount. And the Butterball Turkey Talk Line is an annual Thanksgiving punch line in late night monologues — which is fantastic publicity!
A simple idea, with an out-of-proportion result: it made the word “Butterball” synonymous with “turkey.” Butterball is now the largest U.S. producer of turkey products.
So let’s take a closer look at this innovative idea, and see how you might be able to adopt and adapt it for your business.
“This is brilliant content marketing,” says Sharmila Chatterjee, a senior marketing lecturer at MIT Sloan. She says it’s a perfect example of the three Rs of content marketing: resources, relevance, and relationships. Butterball has continued to expand their resources, from six home economists on a phone line to social media, texting and, now, Amazon Alexa assistants. The relevance is obvious: Thanksgiving means turkey, turkey means trouble, and Butterball has the solution. And think of what that does for their customer relationships. With a single free phone call, you can talk to a real, friendly expert who will help you with any turkey-related question you might have (including the man who cut his turkey in half with a chain saw and wanted to know if the oil from the chain would adversely affect the turkey).
Basically, they saw where their customers were having difficulty with their product, and they came up with an innovative solution to solve that difficulty. You can do that, right?
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN. Thinking about the three Rs: resources, relevance, and relationships, what innovative ideas could you come up with that would make your customers’ lives easier when it comes to your product or service? Asked another way: If your business/industry had it’s own version of the Butterball Turkey Talk Line, what would it be — and how can you start doing it? Take 30-60 minutes this week with paper and pen and come up with at least ten ideas.
Oh — and Happy Thanksgiving!