How Weber Used Content to Make Us a Nation of Grillers

The latest issue of Fortune includes a story about how Weber grills are made. Further into the story is a bit of background that I hadn’t known about: Through the 1960s, backyard grilling wasn’t common, but Weber changed that.

Weber started making its distinctive grills in 1952. In the 1970s, an employee named Mike Kempster was put in charge of educating the public about grilling. He turned out to be brilliant at it. He dove into what we would now call branded content. Weber didn’t just pump out marketing schmaltz. It hired chefs to experiment with grilling techniques that could be passed on to the public. Some of the techniques and recipes took advantage of Weber’s unique characteristics, but some could be applied to grilling on anything.

“Soon there were pamphlets and cookbooks, classes, and radio shows, and Weber grew to be the largest charcoal grill brand in North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa,” Fortune reports.

Backyard grill products are now a $2.2 billion annual business in the U.S.

It’s a wonderful example of useful, credible, trustworthy branded content effectively building not just a brand, but an entire market.

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And Weber hasn’t stopped. It still pumps out books with titles such as Weber’s Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking  for Everyone and Any Grill, and Weber’s Big Book of Grilling. It should be noted that these are not books that Weber gives away. The Big Book of Grilling costs $40.

Weber has a new target for its content: women. Men, it seems, are happy throwing burgers or steaks on a grill and flipping them with tongs. Women, not so much. The onslaught of TV cooking shows, though, has stirred more women to try more new cooking techniques. Weber put its chefs to work to design gourmet recipes for the grill, and pump out more content.

The idea is that if women become convinced they can make everything from pizza to pound cake on a grill, they’ll line up to buy Webers.

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