I was wandering a local craft fair this weekend when a candy maker’s sign caught my eye. As I read about her products she offered me a sample, along with this sound bite: “these are all family recipes – I got them from my aunt.”
Her comment made me pause. I turned to my boyfriend and commented that she was lucky to have an aunt with such good recipes – because her candies were indeed delicious. Still, her “origin story” made me think about how much we gravitate toward products with a homestyle or family-born slant. Just because a recipe comes from a family member doesn’t mean it’s any good. Your aunt could be the worst cook in the world. Yet, marketing plays off this angle time and time again.
I actually started writing this post a while ago, after I saw a magazine ad about pasta sauce. It’s a slightly different brand story, but a similar angle. The ad plays off this idea that their sauce is “like you’d make it.” The implication is that if you made the sauce yourself, you’d do it the “right way.” This particular product is rooted in simplicity: a short ingredient list and simple methods. But the story they’re telling is rooted in the conception that homemade means high-quality. We all know that isn’t necessarily true. Your homemade meals probably aren’t full of preservatives, but they may very well be disgusting if you’re a bad cook. Or maybe you use a lot of shortcuts and packaged ingredients, so the end result isn’t very “authentic” after all. Saying something is homemade doesn’t make it better, any more so than claiming a product was made in a country known for its craftsmanship.
And yet, these marketing tactics work.We associate these sorts of terms with quality and integrity, regardless of whether our personal experiences suggest the associations, or not. In a society where craftsmanship and small batch are premium descriptors, we can expect to see many more brands playing this homestyle or “authentic” angle. These words are comfortable to consumers, even if they’re not logical associations to make. Even if our family never baked together, seeing yeast that advertises “for family baking” sounds comforting and authentic. And even if you’ve never made pasta sauce, you like the idea that if you ever were to start make sauce – you’d definitely do it the right way.