What Do Millennials Really Want? French Toast, As Easily As Possible

McCormick & Co. Analytics Find the Way to a Generation's Heart

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McCormick's easy French toast recipe.
McCormick's easy French toast recipe.

Marketers and agencies long have tried to meaningfully differentiate millennials from their elders. They've noticed the generation's frugality and slow transition to independent living, both the results of a bad economy, high rates of unemployment, college attendance and student debt.

But spice marketer McCormick & Co. and digital agency R/GA may have landed on the most salient differentiator yet – French toast.

Speaking at the Advertising Age Digital Conference Oct. 29, executies of the marketer and agency discussed one of the simpler and more actionable insights they've found in poring over their website data and Google analytics. Despite their reputation for not cooking, millennials are searching for "easy French toast recipes" on the weekends in surprising numbers. For McCormick, that leads to purchases of cinnamon and vanilla extract.

R/GA, doing semantic analysis and markups of McCormick's extensive recipe database, found literally an "easy" solution to search-engine optimization magic, according to Tony Effik, VP-media & connections of the agency. Do a Google search on "easy French toast recipes" and whose comes up first? You guessed it, McCormick's with five ingredients that can be prepared in five minutes.

Not everything is quite that simple in data analytics for the nation's leading spice brand. Jennifer LaFrance, director of digital communications for McCormick's U.S. Consumer Products division, acknowledged that the company would "like to get a lot smarter" about how weather influences what people cook and eat.

Google analytics have revealed that the Mountain West, despite its reputation for loving beef, over-indexes for its chicken appetite. McCormick's "Menu Adoption Cycle" analysis – which in 2010 correctly predicted the current pumpkin spice boom – finds Peruvian, North African, German and Brazilian are cuisines on the brink of bursting into popularity in the U.S. The last has the most potential because of the affect of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Sao Paulo, Ms. LaFrance said.

McCormick also set out late last year on an ambitious FlavorPrint project that aims to get as many people as possible to answer questions about which of various paired flavor options – such as dark chocolate or deviled eggs – they like best, all in an effort to develop profiles that will predict what recipes will most appeal to them. By the way, it turns out more people prefer the deviled eggs.

It's too soon to say how FlavorPrints may affect McCormick's new production direction, Ms. LaFrance said. "But we do know that people who are involved are more brand loyal to us."

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