You want eggs with that?

November 24, 2010

Categories: crossover books, marketing books, NaNoWriMo 2010, rejacketing

When I studied copywriting (last century) we had a fantastic marketing class which was the highlight of the course. I can’t remember the name of the lecturer now, but he was a dapper man who had a colourful range of bow ties and a never-ending bag of anecdotes. One story that has always stuck with me is the story of the instant cake mix.

As a young man my lecturer was given the job of selling instant cake packet mixes. The manufacturer had done a great job of creating an instant cake mix that only needed water added by the busy housewife (and housewife it would have been then) to create a perfect cake. But the mix didn’t sell. Subsequent surveys of the target market suggested that the end user felt they hadn’t put enough effort into baking the cake, and questioned the nutritional value of the cake. Feedback was given to the manufacturer who changed their recipe so that it required the addition of one egg. Sales rocketed.

In a similar vein, publishers over the past few years have cannily rejacketed books to increase their market share. Books with child/teen oriented covers have been given more sophisticated treatments so that adults can happily sit on trains, in cafes and any other public place without the stigma of being seen to be reading a children’s book. Nothing else has changed, just the cover.

I guess it’s all about the perception of the end user.

4 Responses to “You want eggs with that?”

  1. Megan Burke says:

    i used to get people asking all the time about the 'adult' version of harry potter, thinking that there was sex or drugs or something included.

    no you morons, it's just so adults don't feel embarrassed reading a kids book on the train!

  2. Robyn Bavati says:

    Great post, Karen, and I love the egg analogy. One thing that is certainly true is that people actually do judge a book by its cover (despite the maxim that one shouln't)and the publishing industry is certainly aware of this. I'm not sure it's only to save adults embarrassment. I was chatting to my editor the other day about this very topic and she suggested that kids in their early teens are easily put off by covers that appear too childish. They like more sopisticated covers that suggest they are reading beyond their years.

  3. karen tayleur says:

    ha ha – poor Harry. Don't really want to think about that!

  4. karen tayleur says:

    Robyn, soon we'll have Kinder books with Steph Myer-style motifs for the discerning kinder kid!

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