I’ve always liked this story about Betty Crocker and how markets are using the same theory in their businesses. It is a story that originates from a cake mix they launched in 1952 as part of a broader trend to simplify the life of the housewife by minimizing manual labour. All you needed to do was to add water to the supplied powder which back then, was something of a miracle. The problem was that the miracle mixture did not sell. The mixes made cooking too easy, making their labour and skill seem undervalued.

The problem, according to psychologists, was eggs. It emerged that housewives felt that they were cutting too many corners; they felt guilty, almost as if they were cheating, because the products were just too easy.

In response to this, Betty Crocker’s business psychologists came up with a plan… they took out the egg.  Yes, they simply removed the powdered egg from the mix, put an instruction on the packet that the housewife should add one freshly beaten egg, and suddenly the product began flying off the shelves. Today, amazingly, we still have to add that darn egg, giving a sense of creative contribution.’. IKEA uses the above concept. IKEA believes in building strong relationships with customers and customer satisfaction. So serving and working with people is central to IKEA’s business philosophy.

Understanding from Betty Crocker cake mix, we can safely say that labour alone can be sufficient to induce greater liking for the fruits of one’s labour – the products they have created. Thus, IKEA’s furniture are all labour intensive and the consumer has to build the furniture based on the instructions provided, thereby valuing the product and creating an emotional connect.

By now you’ve understood Usability is just one of the components of good design”. So moving on to my second point. In the Betty Crocker example, the psychologists realized the customer wanted to play the role of a successful home-maker and cook. We could say that the housewives may have felt societal pressures to perform this role well. The egg, therefore, became more than an ingredient. It becomes a prop, enabling the customer to play a social role.

IKEA’s advertising campaigns are based on unique marketing conditions and cultural sensibilities of each country, which varied significantly across markets.

 IKEA in Australia recently launched a campaign which calls on Australians to take a less regimented approach to family life. The ‘make time for living’ campaign aims to inspire Australian families and champion a strong point of view on family life at home and that this will make people sit up and think about the way they live. The idea behind it is to create a stronger emotional connection between Australians and the IKEA brand through market relevance and understanding our customers.

Another good example is Pikkpack shoe campaign. Instead of buying yet another pair of Toms this summer, perhaps you order an envelope with a leather shoe upper, a leather shoe sole, and some cotton laces inside. Then you stitch the pieces together. And so you’ve made a shoe, with all the ease of an Easy Bake Oven. “By implementing the DIY concept, the users are encouraged to participate in manufacturing process and therefore to improve the user-product connection.”

Thus, knowing our users is everything—without them, we’d have no one in mind to design for and few would purchase our products. When we design a product to meet a market need, we’re addressing the problems, concerns, or desires of people who would use it on a regular basis. So, next time you’re rolling out a project, remember the story of Betty Crocker’s egg.  She’s proven that if you can always keep the end user in mind, you can have your cake and eat it too.


  1. My mom told me a story about a cooking contest for best cake recipe during the early 1940s. She had a recipe for a cake that used only 3 ingredients. The batter was runny but the cake would rise to four or five inches. She called it her Hot Milk cake. Well she wrote down the recipe and couldn’t mail it in because she didn’t have the 3 cent postage. That year the winner was the Hot Milk cake recipe. The winner received $50,000.


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