Known as the "first lady of food," Betty Crocker has spent more than 90 years dispatching kitchen advice, including selling more than 75 million cookbooks since its first one was published in 1942. But of late, the fictional brand icon has taken on a new mission as a supporter of gay marriage.
The General Mills-owned brand began winning attention for the cause in August of last year by providing cakes to same-sex couples who got married in Minnesota after the state legalized gay married. Now Betty is following up on that high-profile gesture by donating cakes to couples marrying during the Twin Cities Pride event this weekend, which celebrates LGBT equality with a parade and festival in Minneapolis, which is where General Mills is headquartered.
Meanwhile, a General Mills-backed LGBT employee group called "Betty's Family" will have a float at the parade and the company has invited several married gay couples to march alongside. Lucky Charms, also owned by General Mills, is also expected to have a presence.
Betty's appearance is part of a larger brand push to redefine homemaking while celebrating the diversity of today's families, according to General Mills. To that end, the company this week announced it is partnering with the nonprofit New America public policy institute for a national survey that seeks to get a "first-person point of view on what it means to be a homemaker in America today."
"Betty has always been a pioneer and guide for homemakers. As today's family continues to evolve, so does Betty," Perteet Spencer, marketing manager for Betty Crocker, said in a statement. "Our purpose is to help make a home. Better understanding of those cultural dynamics will help us provide the best products and services to meet current and future needs of families everywhere."
So far, Betty's involvement in gay rights has been good for the brand, Ms. Spencer said in an interview. "Naysayers are always there, but generally the response has been really positive," she said. Asked if the character was evolving into an activist for gay rights, she said, "if Betty is an activist at all, Betty would be an activist for the modern homemaker."
By itself, the phrase "homemaker" seems old-fashioned, conjuring up images of kitchen-bound women in aprons. But rather than run from the word, General Mills is seeking to put a modern twist on it. The New America survey will build on the brand's one-year-old "Families Project," which included a report on the state of families today.
The report defines a "homemaker" as simply "anyone who makes a home," while providing statistics on the changing dynamics of American families. Among the revelations is that as of 2010 less than half of all households in the U.S. included a husband and wife, the first time that's happened since household census data was first collected in 1940. The report also notes that the number of same-sex couples living together jumped 80% in the past 10 years.
The project includes video profiles of four-modern day families, including a married female couple raising a 13-year-old boy.
The Betty Crocker brand will seek to gain even more insights at the Minnesota Pride event. The brand will ask attendees to describe "what home means to them," while sharing their responses with the hashtag "#HomemakerPride." The responses will be put on display at a mural at the Betty Crocker Pride booth, while the brand will also promote them on social media. Finally, Betty will ask people to "show their pride" by baking rainbow-themed desserts.
It all seems like a far cry from 1957, when this Betty Crocker ad suggested that one way to "kiss-'n'-make-up" to your man (presumably your husband) was to bake him a cake.