When you take a big bite of your turkey this Thanksgiving, there are likely 5,500 people hanging on your every bite (and would be happy to hand you a kitchen mitt if they could).
Whose the crowd that’s so invested in whether you find that fowl to be fair or not? The employees of Butterball, of course. And if you’re not enjoying your bird for any reason, you can be sure the folks at this North Carolina-based company would have some advice on how to fix things up.
After all, these guys know their turkey. Butterball sells more than one billion pounds of the stuff annually and is responsible for one in every five turkeys sold in the U.S. every year. Not only that, the company runs the world’s largest turkey-processing plant at 675,000 square feet, which probably isn’t always the most pleasant place to work.
Registered as a trademark in 1940, Butterball has had a few different owners. The current one was called Carolina Turkeys back in 2006 when it made the $325 million purchase. It subsequently changed its name to Butterball LLC. (Carolina was a joint venture, by the way, between
Carolina Turkeys is a joint venture of Maxwell Farms, Inc. and Smithfield Foods, Inc. The latter is selling its stake to the former by year’s end for $175 million. That’s a lot of snoods.)
Even before Carolina Turkeys made the purchase, though, Butterball has been serious about making contact with its customers. For 29 years, Butterball has maintained a toll-free Turkey Talk-Line so anyone with any question about cooking a turkey can call for advice. The hotline started with six home economists who dealt with 11,000 calls. Today, there are “more than 50 professionally trained, college-educated home economists and nutritionists, who respond to more than 100,000 questions each November and December.”
The company clearly attempts to make that kind of effort to help out its customers through its digital offerings as well.
Butterball.com opens with the suggestion that you should “Celebrate Every Day” (Turkey apparently isn’t just for holidays anymore) and “Celebrate Together” (not many people make a turkey for one).
The home page smartly morphs into a recipe book layout.
The folks at Butterball clearly know their marketplace with such titles in the recipe book as “Kids in the Kitchen” and “Entertaining Made Easy.” Behind each item is very practical content to help families deal with the realities of putting together a turkey meal.
The headlines for different sections line the bottom of the home page and also go along the same theme of being as helpful as possible: “We’re Here to Help,” “Watch Our Video Guides,” “Featured Savings,” and “Plan Perfect Portions.”
It’s also easy to get from the site to Butterball’s Facebook and Twitter pages in order to send questions to the Talk-Line experts.
Butterball was already experimenting with new ways to get out its turkey tips back in 2006 when the company began producing podcasts with Talk-Line experts sharing helpful hints. The podcasts were posted on the company’s site as well as on iTunes in order to reach a younger market.
“The consumers that are actually podcasting are the ones that are either now, or will in the next few years, start cooking our turkeys,” said Toni Kackert, marketing manager for Butterball Turkey, in a company release at the time. “A lot of them are first-time turkey preparers, so we wanted to help them and we thought podcasts would be the way.”
Since then, Butterball has upgraded to online videos that can be found on the company’s Website and on its Facebook page. They feature the director of the Butterball Talk-Line, Mary Clingman on what looks like the Brady Bunch kitchen set. Clingman seems to be still dethawing as she walks viewers through how to stuff a turkey (in 58 seconds, no less), carve a turkey, and deal with turkey leftovers, among other things.
Butterball went mobile back in 2008 when it introduced its turkey texts. Basically, the company leveraged what it already had – the Turkey Talk-Line experts – to text out cooking tips about turkeys to anyone who signed up from November 3 to December 31.
So if you wanted to be getting texts with prep and cooking tips, reminders of when to buy your turkey, shopping-list alerts for new recipes, and an ability to connect directly with the Butterball experts, this was one app you wouldn’t want to live without.
These days, mobile users can access recipes, turkey-related calculators and conversion tables as well as various how-to's and tips.
On Twitter, the Butterball PR team is also working overtime by sending out occasional turkey-related tweets, such as the following: “Turkeys kept in a home freezer for 1-2 years are still delicious & safe to eat. Enjoy!”
Or, “Decorating with pumpkins is an easy and affordable way to bring the beauty of fall into your home.”
These kinds of tweets along with links to recipes have gained the company almost 2,000 followers. Butterball also uses Twitter to engage its customers by asking questions of them such as what everyone is planning to do for Halloween.
Meanwhile, Butterball's Facebook page engages far more consumers. It has more than 20,000 fans who get to read such updates as “More than 50% of Baby Boomers (the most likely generation to host Thanksgiving Day) will be asking family members to bring a dish. What do you ask your friends and family to contribute on Thanksgiving Day?”
The company’s PR department is also working hard to engage consumers one-to-one on Facebook. When a customer posted that her son and girlfriend would be cooking the side dishes for the turkey this year and that this would be her first Thanksgiving as a grandma, Butterball replied to her as follows:
“Congrats on your grandson, Marlene! What an exciting time for you and your family… If your son and his girlfriend need some ideas for easy-to-follow side dishes, check out these great recipes: http://bit.ly/9fw1eN. Enjoy creating wonderful holiday traditions with your newest family member!”
The Photos section of the Butterball Facebook page is stuffed with images from Butterball University, where consumers take classes with Talk-Line experts as well as images of the experts in action on the phone giving advice.
The brand's YouTube channel has also been updated, with a Nov. 22nd video on roasting a turkey quickly getting more than 100,000 views:
The bottom line is that the Talk-Line experts are the stars of the show for Butterball, no matter how you’re approaching the company: in person, on the phone, online, through your mobile device, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, on media not yet invented or even dreamed of. Wrestling a turkey from frozen to delicious is no easy task and Butterball is clearly invested in getting as many consumers as possible comfortable with the concept.
So if you happen to have a turkey that’s not up to snuff this Thanksgiving, feel free to give the more than 50 Butterball employees who will be on duty to figure out how it could have been done differently. One thing you can be sure of: They’ll be glad to get your call.
Barry Silverstein has been a frequent brandchannel contributor since 2007. He has thirty years of advertising and marketing experience and is currently a freelance writer and marketing consultant. He founded and ran his own direct marketing agency and held executive positions with Epsilon, a leading database marketing firm and Arnold, a major ad agency. Silverstein is the author of three marketing books, including the McGraw-Hill book, The Breakaway Brand, which he co-authored with Arnold CEO Fran Kelly.
*Due to the constantly changing environment of websites, some reviews may no longer reflect the current website for this brand.