The accidental discovery of CorningWare in 1958 changed the way Americans cooked, offering a material – fired glass – that was versatile, easy to use and convenient. Although an immensely popular staple in American kitchens for 40 years, by the late 90s CorningWare’s popularity began to wane. A number of factors contributed to the downturn, including:
The product’s icon casserole shape was viewed as “old fashioned” and out-of-step with current methods and styles of cooking. New CorningWare shapes could not be manufactured at the time.
Statistics and trends were conflicting. Americans increasingly lacked time, role models and even desire to learn the basics of cooking. Children no longer learned how to cook from family and friends. Schools reduced or eliminated basic cooking/home economics programs and time-pressed family increasingly relied on take-out food in lieu of the sit-down, home-cooked family dinners.
CorningWare’s own research indicated, however, that the more comfortable and confident women felt about cooking, the more they cooked and entertained.
Increasingly, when families cooked at all, they were purchasing range top cookware products popularized by TV’s celebrity cooks.
CorningWare, challenged PT&Co. to develop a public relations program that would contemporize the brand and drive awareness of the product’s versatility (freezer to oven/microwave to table), ease of use and time-saving attributes for hurried and hungry families.
Working with a mandated advertising tagline “Find Your Inner Chef,” PT&Co. developed “Find Your Inner Chef @ CorningWare eSchool.com,” a multi-year strategy that utilized the Internet to create the first virtual cooking school using professional instructors to teach the basics of cooking. The recommendation was for CorningWare, as a market leader, to take the high road and embark upon a campaign to combat widespread “cooking illiteracy” by giving Americans a 24/7 option to learn cooking basics. While the Internet was overflowing with recipes, no one had yet attempted to utilize culinary professionals to teach the basic skills needed to prepare those great recipes. By embracing that challenge, CorningWare could reinforce its market leadership while using the Internet to introduce CorningWare’s classic casserole shapes with contemporary recipes to a younger consumer.
PT&Co. faced a number of obstacles in developing the campaign including:
Time constraints – We were given only three months to create and finalize all the program elements, including establishing partnerships, building the Web site, planning and executing the launch event and developing all collateral for the initiative;
Budget constraints – CorningWare’s eSchool was given a modest budget and expected to compete with other, more highly funded, e-commerce driven Web sites;
Product constraints – The effort needed to showcase existing products (e.g., “old fashioned” shapes), overcome media perception that CorningWare was no longer relevant and lay the groundwork for a Web site that would ultimately feature new products.
Agency conducted secondary research and discovered the depth of America’s cooking illiteracy, including:
A 1998 National Pork Producers poll that revealed almost 75% of more than 700 persons who took a simple cooking test failed it;
A Food Technology report indicating that many modern Americans (young women, husbands, single men and kids) are “kitchen novices” – who say that “they don't know where to begin;”
A McKinsey & Company, Inc. report predicting that by 2005, many Americans would have never cooked a meal from scratch.
CorningWare’s primary research revealed that the more a woman enjoys cooking, the more likely she is to cook meals from scratch and entertain friends and family. As one of America’s most respected cookware brands, CorningWare was uniquely positioned to help women rediscover the love of cooking.
To revitalize and contemporize CorningWare to appeal to younger consumers.
Young moms with children under age 12
Young women (Gen X and Y in their 20s and 30s)
Baby Boomer women (35-53)
Position CorningWare as a cooking authority and leader in helping to increase American’s cooking literacy
Leverage the trend in life-long and long-distance learning by opening a virtual cooking school
Align the initiative with the premiere culinary university, Johnson & Wales and offer a 24/7 curriculum online
Corningware-eSchool.com – PT&Co. worked with a Web designer to create an appealing, easily navigable Web site to teach basic cooking techniques.
Partnerships – To provide key third-party expertise in developing an online cooking school curriculum, PT&Co. established a partnership with Johnson & Wales University (JWU), America’s largest culinary school. JWU staff worked with CorningWare to develop the courses, which currently include Roasting, Broiling/Grilling and Baking. JWU also worked with CorningWare to develop lab instructions, techniques, tips and recipes. The Web site includes food safety tips, a glossary and resources for further explorations.
Advisory Board – PT&Co. created a select group of culinary experts to act as eSchool’s advisory board and provide feedback on the recipes and content.
Launch Event – PT&Co. kicked off Find Your Inner Chef @ Corningware-eschool.com at a New York City press event, attended by 35 key national media on November 10, 1999. CorningWare executives presented a retrospective on CorningWare achievements positioning eSchool as the latest example of the brand’s leadership. The new Web site was demonstrated, media were invited to log on at computer stations and earn a “graduation certificate” upon completing each course.
Collateral – PT&Co. propped the event with “Find You Inner Chef @ CorningWare eSchool” aprons, mouse pads and signage and gave media a sample of the new CorningWare French Bistro line.
National Media Outreach – PT&Co. conducted a comprehensive national media relations campaign including a national survey on the “State of Cooking in America,” and a CorningWare eSchool press kit with Web site screen shots and background on the partnerships and curriculum.
Controlled Media Vehicles – Agency produced a VNR /b-roll package featuring JWU instructors and the “State of Cooking in America” survey results; a MAT/ANR distributed to 10,000 newspapers and 6,500 radio stations nationwide; and orchestrated a Thanksgiving-themed Co-op SMT with Food TV Network celebrity chef Jacqui Malouf.
CorningWare eSchool received more than 97,000,000 media impressions as a result of the launch, including: the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Media that have never covered CorningWare did, in the context of providing life-long learning at eSchool, including: Newsweek’s Kaplan Guide to the Internet, Family PC, CNN.com and Worldwidelearning.com. Younger women with children reading Self, Cooking Light, and First For Women discovered a way to fit learning how to cook in their busy schedules with our 24/7 online solution. CorningWare’s core customers in America’s heartland read and heard about the program via a MAT/ANR, reaching more than 7,000,000 consumers.
Pioneering Contribution to Education on the Internet: CorningWare was the first to offer consumers free cooking instruction designed by culinary professionals. 2,500 unique visitors a month log on to eSchool, a significant number for a non-ecommerce Web site.
The CorningWare eSchool addressed the survey finding that women wanted a faster and more user-friendly way to learn how to cook. In fact, CBS.com called the “cyber version of a beginner’s cookbook.”
Retailer confidence rose this past year in several distribution channels as a result of the new positioning of the brand and the development of the CorningWare eSchool program.
CorningWare eSchool Expands: World Kitchen, the parent company of CorningWare, strongly supports the success of the program and consequently, will be enhancing the site and content in 2001.