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Jar of SinThey’re considered relics of antiquity now, but once upon a time, corporate sponsored cookbooks were all the rage. In my grandmother’s kitchen cabinets, you could find the Betty Crocker cookbook series, Good Housekeeping’s set, Kraft’s set, you name it. Dozens and dozens of cookbooks, some famous in their own right. Each of the cookbooks had hundreds of recipes, and of course, the directions would call for each company’s respective products as an ingredient in the recipes. Make that killer potato salad with Hellman’s or that great kids snack with Kraft Mac & Cheese.

The companies that created these cookbooks were on to something because it was one of the best ways to get your mind on their products without a direct hard sell. Who needs to blast “BUY NOW! BUY NOW!” for a bottle of salad dressing (that was ignored even before the Internet) when every salad recipe had your brand in it?

The soft sell in those cookbooks was made all the easier because the cookbooks solved a problem – what should we make for breakfast/lunch/dinner/that party on Saturday night? They solved the consumer’s problems and part of the solution was the product the company was trying to move.

Contrast this with the epic failures of selling in social media today, where every spammy Twitter DM is hawking a solution – for the seller, but not for you. Contrast this with the endless product pushes, pointless pitches, and total failure to present any benefit to the consumer, to the buyer. This is one of the many reasons people in social media hate things and terms like monetization – not because we begrudge companies the right to earn some money, but because what you’re selling simply isn’t useful, doesn’t solve a problem.

The next time you go home to a grandmother’s, mother’s, or aunt’s kitchen, go look on their cookbook shelf. Pick up a few, and then start to cook up your own products or services in a different way.

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