Brands as publishers: an old, tasty idea

There’s been a lot of talk about brands as publishers as the ‘next big thing’ recently – a sub-theme of the ‘content marketing is the next big thing’ theme that seemed to explode last year.

I like the idea of brands becoming publishers – but I’d argue that rather than being the next big thing, we’re rediscovering an idea that’s been around for ages in a different (digital) context.

One area where brands have been publishing very successfully for years is the food industry.

Old Sun-Maid Raisin recipe booksFood companies have been publishing recipe books to show people how to use their product for donkey’s years. The idea for banana loaf was allegedly cooked up by Chiquita bananas in the 1940s as a way of flogging the smiley yellow fruit. Sunmaid Raisins have been publishing a series called ‘Downright Delicious’ since 1915. (Best of all, you can download them from their website, which is a lovely bit of publishing in itself.)

I have a particular love for these branded recipe books. They tend to be tacky and fun and they’re tinged with nostalgia for me because my Mum had loads of them and when I was little we did a lot of cooking together, following those recipes.

My favourite was The Cadbury’s Chocolate Novelty Book, which featured a particularly awesome chocolate owl cake, which was made of a Swiss roll, stood on its end, covered in chocolate icing with Chocolate Button feathers and Flake wings. (We were never allowed to make that one.)

Another was The Dairy Book of Home Cookery, which you bought from the milkman. Dairy Diary still publish new editions, but I spent ages tracking down an old copy a few years ago, because I wanted the same early 90s edition my Mum had. It’s very dated now and some of the recipes are just plain odd (any takers for cod with bananas? No?) but I still love it. There are some fail-safe basic recipes in there, and a very informative guide to all the different kinds of milk. (There are more than you think.)

I made a banana loaf at the weekend. (And I bet hundreds, if not thousands of other people did too.)

I still want to make the owl cake.

I buy my milk from the milkman.

So what’s my point? I’m not saying that publishing is some kind of magic fix-all for creating life-long brand relationships, but there is something in the idea.

If you have a product, and you help people to use it in a new way with content that captures memorable that has lasting value, then I reckon you’re on to a winner.


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