content marketing jello

Content Marketing of Yore: The Jell-O story

There’s nothing like a little history lesson to give some perspective to your content marketing efforts. While many people assume that content marketing is something that came along after the development of the Internet, there’s at least one popular brand that has been using content marketing successfully for over 100 years now, and it all started with a decidedly low-tech approach.

Read on to learn three important content marketing lessons you can learn from the meteoric rise of Jell-O.

1. A product that people don’t know how to use will never succeed.

This one may sound obvious, but Jell-O had to go through two owners before this lesson started to sink in. Gelatin was first patented in the United States in 1845. Back then, even its creator, a successful inventor and businessman named Peter Cooper, didn’t see gelatin as a viable product. He eventually sold the rights, but the second owner had no more success selling gelatin than Cooper had. It wasn’t until a half-century after the product was patented in the U.S. that things began to turn around for gelatin, and this new success can all be traced back to content marketing.

The third owner, a high-school dropout named Frank Woodward, bought the rights to Jell-O for $450 in 1897, and began to promote the dessert using a variety of new and innovative techniques—things that we would recognize today as early precursors of content marketing. These new marketing techniques sought to address the main problem that was keeping people from using Jell-O: they didn’t know how to use it.

2. Content should be valuable and relevant.

Woodward’s new marketing efforts focused on offering educational content that would provide value to users, while also helping people understand how to make Jell-O a part of their everyday lives. These examples of early content marketing included things like Jell-O cookbooks featuring celebrity recipes, live Jell-O cooking demonstrations, and the distribution of promotional molds designed to make the product easier to use. As a result, consumers began to think of Jell-O as a fun and convenient part of their family’s diets, even though many of them had never heard of gelatin just a few years before.

Over the years, Jell-O went from a product that no one could seem to sell to one of the most popular prepackaged desserts in the world, and it all happened because content marketing broke down the barrier that was preventing consumers from trying the product in the first place. However, it’s important to realize that people used this content because it was valuable; If Jell-O had simply created content just for the sake of creating content, they would never have reached the level of success they did.

3. Great content can take any form.

The key lesson from the Jell-O story is clear: any product or service can benefit greatly from the proper application of content marketing, and great content marketing doesn’t always look the way you’d expect it to. People value content that is relevant to their lives, and will gladly consume content that is presented to them in the right way, no matter what form that content might take.

While the idea of a branded cookbook may seem obvious and predictable today, that wasn’t the case until Jell-O came along. There are always going to be new and innovative ideas about how you can use content to reach your customers; you just have to be the one to come up with those ideas!


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