The Advertising Century

Betty Crocker

Published on .

PRODUCT: Food products including cake mixes, frostings, microwave popcorn and biscuit mixes
CREATOR: Washburn Crosby Co., a forerunner of General Mills

Long before Martha Stewart, there was Betty Crocker.

Betty was created in 1921 after a promotion for Gold Medal flour flooded Washburn Crosby Co. with questions about baking. To answer customers in a more personal manner, the company created a fictitious kitchen expert, pulling the name "Crocker" from a recently retired director of the company and adding the first name "Betty" because it sounded friendly.

Washburn Crosby's female employees were asked to submit handwriting samples for Betty's signature and the one selected as "most distinctive" is still Betty's signature today.

From these humble home-ec beginnings, Betty went on to become one of the first multimedia superstars. Beginning in 1924, she hosted the country's first radio cooking show, "Betty Crocker School of the Air," first on a local Minneapolis station and later on the NBC radio network.

During the 1930s she helped advise a cash-strapped nation on how to cook tasty budget meals. She was voted the second-most- famous woman in America after Eleanor Roosevelt, according to Fortune in 1945. It was only a matter of time before she wooed consumers on television.

After numerous guest appearances on CBS and NBC, where she taught stars such as George Burns and Gracie Allen to cook, Betty got her own show, "The Betty Crocker Search for the All-American Homemaker of Tomorrow." The series, featuring a variety of actresses playing Betty, ran from 1954 to 1976.

Meantime, behind-the-scenes Bettys were authoring cookbooks. Since the 1950s, more than 200 Betty Crocker cookbooks have been published. Betty also developed her own line of food products, starting with the famous Betty Crocker cake mixes.

Along the way, Betty's image was refined to reflect the changing image of women. Over the years she has had eight different "looks," from the first stern gray-haired, older woman in 1936 to today's olive-skinned, dark-haired Betty, a product of computer morphing.

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