Welcome to grilling season. This summer, 70 percent of all Americans will fire up a grill. Most will do so on a gas grill, although charcoal is still a close second. A majority of them will grill on the Fourth of July or Father’s Day. Some will opt to spend maybe a couple hundred bucks for the average gas unit. But some grillers take the meat, fish, veggies and cooking process very seriously, and will spend up to $800 for a grill.
For the latter group, there is a company called Masterbuilt. Considered the gold standard for outdoor grilling, the company has just combined a unique marketing campaign with the debut of its most sophisticated cooking device.
To get a sense of exactly how sophisticated the company has become and how serious its customers are, consider this: Its new grill comes with its own app. From a smartphone, the “Charcoal Man” can control cooking speed, heating temperature and even when the grill should start. It’s part of Masterbuilt’s commitment to innovation, which has won the company several awards for design – and that commitment has been met by the serious grilling cohort.
“All of our innovation starts with consumer and marketplace research,” said CMO Cara Finger. “We do our due diligence to understand what unique value we can provide to consumers, and we task our team of engineers with development to meet the consumer or marketplace opportunity. Once the innovation is ready for market, we develop an omnichannel marketing plan to support it across paid and owned channels, and serve up messaging to relevant audiences.
“For the app, consumer lifestyles are shifting to accommodate the convenience and accessibility that technology allows. Each of our innovations is developed with this consumer desire for simplicity and ease of use in mind, and the app allows for that – making it easy to set your desired temperature and go about your day.”
The Masterbuilt line includes high-end gas grills, smokers, fryers, cooking gear and accessories, as well as online recipes. The products are sold through outdoor and home improvement stores like Cabela’s and Home Depot. They are also sold through the company’s website, which has seen significant growth during the pandemic and will now receive a higher level of investment from the company.
“COVID-19 has drastically shifted consumer lifestyles – with that, we are honored to have the opportunity to be a part of more at-home cooking occasions,” said Finger. “Given the comfort level with in-person consumer experiences, we have moved our summer and fall in-person events to the virtual space. We are grateful to have the opportunity to leverage our network of partners and influencers to provide inspiration from backyards across the country and reach a broader audience on social during this time of quarantine.”
One of the things other retailers can learn from Masterbuilt’s operations is its strong commitment to its audience. The company’s craftsmanship and engineering have always been the core of its product development. Its new Gravity Series, for example, took three years to build. The company recently told that story through a social series called Meet The Makers, where its team talked about the process and the challenges they faced, putting a face to the engineers behind the series of products.
The Gravity Series built on its customer feedback with an advertising campaign called “Charcoal Man.” He is a suitably bearded, macho-looking gentleman who says he’s done “babysitting” charcoal. With the automated nature of the grill and the controlling app, the Charcoal Man has outperformed expectations, according to Finger.
While higher-end grilling is not as popular or populated as the casual product lines, Finger said the competition in the outdoor cooking space is “fierce.”
“Our greatest challenge is penetrating a well-established market,” she noted. “On top of that, we are introducing a first-to-market product, so out of the gate our grill requires a little more education and demonstration – so we are investing in social and digital to get this product in front of the right consumers and create awareness.”
Masterbuilt’s marketing goes right to the core of its constituency. The “Charcoal Man” and the retail salespeople who advocate for its products are its most effective marketing tools, according to Finger.
“We’re investing our time and resources in all stages of the marketing funnel – from channels that serve a specific purpose with digital advertising to the social environment, where we are able to have direct conversations with consumers,” she said. “It has also been impactful to see the organic conversations happening around our products in environments like fan forums – we learn a lot from listening to our consumers directly. We’ve invested a good bit of time in building out the right marketing mix and strategic levers to drive paid media success, and we are seeing the fruit of that labor now that we are in key grilling season. We have a strong strategic partner in our media agency of record – together, we have been able to create a full funnel campaign, which has resulted in strong product sell-through.”