Betty Crocker almost blew the brand on brownie mix. Now, for the uninitiated, the modern process goes like this: you get a box of sugary magic powder. You add some eggs, some water or milk, stir it up, toss it in the over, and “Voila!” But, it wasn’t always this way. It used to be simpler. That’s right – running against our ethos of “simple is kind” is the corollary, “buy-in is best.”
The original Betty Crocker brownie mix had it all. Literally, you just dumped the powder in a bowl, added water, mixed and cooked. We are talking stupid easy. There was just one minor problem – they couldn’t sell it. The marketers and the psychologists were called in to get the product to move. General Mills owned the 1950s kitchen. How could this mix be the one thing not working?
As it turned out, the researchers uncovered that the reason was guilt. Homemakers felt too guilty about how easy it was. The guests would come and say, “Oh you must have slaved in the kitchen for hours to make these treats,” and the honest answer was, “Eh, not really.” As a matter of pride, the cooks needed something more to take credit for and so General Mills redid the recipe. The reason we add water AND an egg is to account for… guilt.
Here’s the lesson: sometimes, but not always, people don’t want us to do everything for them. They want something they can take credit for. A simple “add an egg” might be all it takes for a process to go from “magic trick” to “my magic trick.” The simple act of being able to stake a claim in owning the process can be a powerful differentiator. A client might even prefer the product or service that does less for them and forces them to engage more.
Simple is kind. But sometimes we also have to remember buy-in is best. In order for the client to still be the hero of the story, sometimes we have to tee up a point of pride so they can feel confident moving forward. It’s up to us to know when it’s time to go “just add water” or “add an egg.”