Creative Cage Match: King Arthur Flour vs. Cook’s Illustrated

It’s another hot summer month, and another Creative Cage Match is heating up. Now, just because I have no desire to cook or bake in this heat doesn’t mean someone else in a more temperate climate isn’t looking for a new recipe to try or kitchen gadget to pick up. I say go ahead, enjoy … I’ll be over here eating a caprese salad and fanning myself.

There’s a reason that pro-wrestling is so popular — and it’s not just the juicy drama and bespangled costumes. People love a good fight, and have for millennia, dating back to the gladiators of Rome and beyond.

So, once a month I’m going to select two marketers and toss them into a Creative Cage Match. I’ll be looking at everything ranging from email to direct mail, website to mobile site. It’ll be a mix of objective and subjective, and each time a marketer will walk out of the ring triumphantly.

The mercury keeps rising in our thermometers here in Philly, but just because I have no desire to cook or bake in this heat doesn’t mean someone else in a more temperate climate isn’t looking for a new recipe to try or kitchen gadget to pick up. I say go ahead, enjoy … I’ll be over here eating a caprese salad and fanning myself.Too Hot to Cook

On this side of the ring we have King Arthur Flour (KAF), a Norwich, Vt.-based supplier of flour, baking mixes, ingredients, cookbooks and baked goods. Founded in 1790 in Boston, Mass. under the name Sand, Taylor & Wood Company, KAF is an employee-owned company and is considered one of the best places to work for in the state of Vermont. Aside from their online presence — including a fully e-commerce site and blog — this baker’s paradise also has a print catalog.

And in the opposite corner we have Cook’s Illustrated, an American cooking magazine published by Brookline, Mass.-based America’s Test Kitchen (ATK). ATK produces several other publications, along with a cooking show, radio program, cookbooks … you name it, they’re involved. Cook’s Illustrated itself is bi-monthly, accepts no advertising and provides extensively tested recipes, as well as super thorough product reviews.

Email vs. Email

Most emails I received from cooking- or baking-based services/publications get my attention right away, due to my personal interest. But with these two contenders, I’m curious to see who gets the hot, summer food vibe right. Let’s start with King Arthur Flour:

King Arthur Flour email part 1 King Arthur Flour email part 2 King Arthur Flour email part 3The subject line reads: “The Complete Guide to Scone Baking,” and while I do love scones, I don’t think I’ll be firing my oven up to 425 degrees Fahrenheit anytime soon.

That said, if it’s not 93 and humid where you live, KAF does provide the full shebang when it comes to scones. Clicking through on the call-to-action button for the guide takes you to a highly visual web page that walks you through the basics of scone making, offers some tips to up your scone game, provides some recipes, as well as contact info for the Baker’s Hotline.

If you stick with the email, you’re rewarded with a legit scones baking tip, more recipes as well as some essential gadgets and a blog post on prepping scones ahead.

So, while I think an email about baking scones is a bit off for July, I think King Arthur Flour did an excellent job providing its subscribers with valuable content.

Knock It Off With the April Fools’ Emails

Look, I’m normally not this cranky, but as of 11 a.m. on April 1, I’ve already received at least 12 April Fools’ Day emails. And while I enjoy humor as much as any other warm-blooded mammal, what I don’t enjoy is my inbox being clogged up with garbage. That’s right. I said garbage.

Look, I’m normally not this cranky, but as of 11 a.m. on April 1, I’ve already received at least 12 April Fools’ Day emails. And while I enjoy humor as much as any other warm-blooded mammal, what I don’t enjoy is my inbox being clogged up with garbage.

That’s right. I said garbage.

Liz Lemon Nerd RageJust because April 1 is some kind of unofficial-official holiday of pranks, jokes and general ridiculousness does not mean every marketer with access to an email subscriber list should use the day to test out their sad-excuse attempts at humor.

Nine times out of 10 it falls flat, latches onto a cheap joke and is as disastrous as that guy at open mic night with big-time dreams of doing stand-up for Comedy Central. Knock. It. Off.

“Whoa, Melissa,” you’re saying. “That’s some serious vitriol you’re spewing. It can’t be all that bad.”

Well, let’s take a look.

April Fools Day email from Third Love
Just … no. I’m sorry, this email is ridiculous, and honestly kind of gross. I don’t care if it does include a dog, it’s not cute. When you click through on the “Shop Now” button, you’re taken to a landing page for “Pawfect Fitting Dog Bras.”

Here’s the thing: Third Love makes slightly higher-end bras that are made of high-quality materials and designed to fit a variety of shapes and sizes. Nothing about this brand is cheesy, or funny at all. Yet, they decided to spend time and energy not only creating an April Fools’ Day email featuring dog bras, but a landing page and product pages.

I’d love to know what marketing manager signed off on this gem. Because it’s an off-brand, off-putting joke campaign that has actually lowered my interest in trying out Third Love products in the future.

April Fools Day Email from PlatedPlated thought it would be cute to spoof dating apps … but there already are foodie dating apps. So again, it’s a lame idea with a somewhat okay execution. The landing page even includes a video for the dating service. Eye-roll. Again, time could have been better spent elsewhere.

April Fool's Day email from King Arthur FlourAll my crankiness aside, I must tip my hat to King Arthur Flour for the email it sent on this most foolhardy of days. Every year, KAF features its annual baking blunders blog post in an email sent to subscribers. As a baker, it can be nice to see that you’re not the only one who mis-measures the flour or burns the pizza crust from time to time (misery loves company, right?).

So King Arthur Flour stayed on-brand with its email, and offered me relevant content that honestly made me laugh. Nicely done.

But, truly, if we want to talk about the experts at April Fools’ Day emails, you’d be remiss to not mention ThinkGeek.