Investing In The Process Makes Success Taste Better

All great campaigns begin with needs.

You identify deficiencies, develop a case for support, and when your campaign goes public, you simplify complex problems into neat giving opportunities. The process is efficient; it helps set up the talking points for development officers. It turns the messy business of philanthropy into a convenient and approachable structure ready for the consumer.

But is convenient, easy, and neat what donors are looking for?

It’s a common mantra in business that convenience always wins. The big box stores are slowly succumbing to online retailers like Amazon, while newcomers trying to emulate Chipotle’s elevated fast food model fill city blocks. But history also shows that convenience has its limits, especially for brands with intangible value—like education.

It begins with a story about baking cakes.

Ernest Dichter.

The 1950’s brought big change to home economics. Innovations like washing machines and supermarkets drastically reduced the workloads of middle class homemakers, growing the workforce and increasing leisure time in the process. Ready-to-eat meals perfected on soldiers serving overseas became the domestic “TV Dinner,” and baking cakes and brownies became as simple as just adding water.

But it didn’t take long for sales of instant cake mix to stagnate. In a world moving towards greater convenience, instant cake mix should have been the perfect product for the modern household. Why wasn’t it taking off? General Mills decided to commission a now-famous market research study by Ernest Dichter to find out.

Dichter was a psychologist and marketing expert focused on consumer motivation. His research for General Mills was both qualitative and quantitative. Through his process, he discovered that home bakers didn’t like instant cake mix because they didn’t feel like they were baking. They lost that sense of pride and accomplishment that came from making a cake from scratch.

Dichter’s solution was elegant and is still with us today.

He suggested removing the eggs from the mix, adding that step to the process done at home. The act of adding fresh eggs and mixing the batter gave bakers a sense of pride and accomplishment in their end dessert. But Dichter’s insight was about more than just eggs; he helped the cake companies realize that bakers needed to feel invested in making the cake even if it came at the expense of convenience. Rather than present cake mixes as just a quicker way to make a cake, cake companies began marketing their products as aides to allow bakers to spend more of their creative energy on frostings and decorations. Re-emphasizing the process of baking is what made fictitious Betty Crocker a household name.

So what does this have to do with your campaign?

It’s simply a reminder that philanthropy isn’t a utility, and the convenience of broad campaign statements, facts, and infographics don’t fully convey value to donors. To feel invested in the goal, donors might need to break a few eggs, and become more engaged in the progress. That’s what stories do. They make the emotional connection between a need and a potential outcome.

And as your campaign and your donor base grows more complex, so will your need for a library of narratives that support your unique and individual asks. Building and managing that is no piece of cake, and that’s why we built Mythos.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Mythos can help you leverage personal, relevant stories in your campaigns, drop us a line.

About the Author

Jack Budington

Ever since Jack was a kid he has been absorbed in learning everything he can about the world. On family road trips he would constantly pester his parents with questions.

“How far away is it to the moon? How fast is Roger Clemens fastball? What is the oldest town in Connecticut?”

Luckily, for everyone involved, smart phones were invented.

However, Jack’s desire to understand the world never ceased.  As he grew older he became especially interested in history. To Jack history is a vast web of billions of stories with endless complexity. His time at Kenyon College solidified what he loves about studying history—finding patterns, omissions, and meaning in this vast web of stories.

Now as a writer for Mythos, Jack finds and share stories about what it means to create communities of belief and bind people together through values and ideas. Each week Jack hopes to learn something new and hopes you do too.