Finding traction as a new startup in an established market isn’t easy—especially when that market is full of brands that have a strong emotional connection to their customers. For cookware company Great Jones, survival depends on their ability to differentiate from well-known incumbents like Le Creuset, Calphalon, and All-Clad, each of which has decades of brand awareness under their belt.
When Maddy Moelis and Sierra Tishgart started Great Jones in 2018, they knew all of this and had a few creative ideas to help jump-start their growth. As a direct-to-consumer brand, they were already situated to offer up a different experience from their competitors. But that also meant they’d need to convince their customers to buy their products sight unseen.
Great Jones boosts the legitimacy of their nascent brand by focusing on a content strategy that educates customers on how to use their products and design that makes their brand feel more established in the market. This, combined with a pricing strategy that positions their products as an upgrade for millennial buyers, helps ensure their place on the stove (and then at the table).
Showcase product value through educational content
For decades, consumers who use Le Creuset and Calphalon have been teaching their kids to appreciate the companies’ products. To elevate their products to the same level, Great Jones uses a recipe of compelling content types to showcase the value of the products and how to care for them:
- Blog posts with notable guest contributors from the food industry help lend credibility to their brand.
- Recipes for dishes from all over the world—from vin chaud rouge to furikake rice cakes—demonstrate how to use Great Jones products in real-life kitchens.
- Illustrated product descriptions help convert more customers by showing them exactly how a new Dutch oven or saucepan will make them a better cook.
Blog posts on the Great Jones blog don’t just talk about how wonderful their products are. It’s more about connecting their brand situating their brand in the wider conversation around food. For example, a profile post about a chef won’t explicitly be about how the chef uses their products or offer a direct endorsement, but it will likely include a photo spread of the chef using Great Jones pans and end with a nod toward the chef’s “go to” cookware.
This is very similar to the tactics Casper used to jump-start their direct-to-consumer mattress brand.
Recipe posts are where Great Jones really nails their product marketing. They take the statements made in product descriptions and turn them into something real. Each recipe teaches customers how to make a tasty meal using Great Jones products and links to the specific items being used.
When a customer looks for the ingredients they’ll need to complete a specific recipe, they’re also shown the specific Great Jones cookware that was used. This is mirrored in the recipe photography, which also features their products in use.
Great Jones continues this strategy in their FAQ and Care & Cleaning sections, which includes the Great Jones Product Care Card, a downloadable PDF the customer can use in their own kitchen.
As a newcomer to the market, Great Jones needs to do a lot more than their competitors to showcase immediate value for the customer. They don’t have the historical brand trust of an All-Clad or Calphalon, so content is their best option. By teaching customers how to cook better and stealthily inserting Great Jones as the company that helps them do it, the company can situate their brand as an obvious choice.
Use design to make positive associations with your brand
Great Jones uses a retro-chic design and understated luxury aesthetic, both in their products and their branding, to appeal to millennials, who are driving the rise of online DTC brands and gravitate toward aspirational messaging. Great Jones treats their products like art pieces, marry both function and form. The message is clear: their products will help you cook better, but also, you’ll look good doing it.
“Having a small New York kitchen (and little closet space) means that it’s often necessary for your cookware to sit on your stove, even when you’re not using it,” Tishgart told Goop. “Pots and pans then become highly visible design pieces, just like a sofa or a rug.”
This is important for a millennial-focused eCommerce company like Great Jones, whose customers are more brand-conscious than most.
If Great Jones isn’t able to solidify their relationships early on, they’ll likely lose out on potential customers who’ve settled in with one of their competitors.
Go to Great Jones’ website and it’s easy to see how design-focused they really are. Their font is reminiscent of seminal 1960s-era cookbooks, and each blog post is structured to look like a recipe card.
All this works together to help Great Jones connect their brand with the culture of cooking and cookware—even down to their name, a play on cookbook author/editor and champion of Julia Childs, Judith Jones.
Great Jones branding and design are meant to make their products feel like they’ve always been there. They’re not a 90-year-old brand like Le Creuset, but their aesthetic makes you want to believe they are.
Instead of going modern, their brand is trying to connect with the golden age of cookbooks and cookery, a time that has a sort of mythical quality among millennial foodies for whom James Beard is an award, not a person. In that way, Great Jones uses design to position their brand as having a rightful place among a long lineage of luxury cookware.
Position the brand to exhibit luxury and attainability
To make purchasing their products possible for millennial cooks, Great Jones needed to set a price that was in line with their expectations. Most people buy a set of cookware only a few times, so the potential market is very competitive, and a mid-market price helps Great Jones differentiate their products from competitors.
At press time, the suggested retail price of a 5 ½ quart Le Creuset dutch oven was $460 according to Williams Sonoma. The 6 ¾ quart “The Dutchess” oven from Great Jones is $145, by comparison. That’s a step up from Target or another big-box brand (a 6 quart dutch oven from Lodge is $60 at Target), but still within reach of millennial or Gen Z buyers just coming into their purchasing power.
And their conscious design and content choices make Great Jones feel like a brand that belongs with other luxury products instead of in the bargain bin.
A customer can pick up a complete set of Great Jones products for $395, a savings of 10% over purchasing each piece separately. The tactic of price bundling helps increase average order value, which is important for a product that isn’t likely to be purchased multiple times.
“I was at a point in my life where I didn’t just want to buy the cheapest things from Ikea,” Tishgart told Eater. “I wanted to upgrade. I did a lot of research and I realized that if I didn’t get married and register for these items I probably wouldn’t be able to afford them.”
Because they’re priced at the middle of the market, Great Jones feels like the more attainable cookware option compared with their competitors, while still maintaining an air of luxury. That differentiates them from the rest of the market and gives the company a footing on which to grow.
Great Jones is a startup cookware company in a large and well-established market. Through educational content and clever design, they’ve positioned their products as the affordable alternative to high-end competitors; that gives them a strong base on which to continue growing their direct-to-consumer eCommerce brand.
► Educational content boosts perceived value
Great Jones uses their blog as a place to teach customers. This helps showcase their products in use and gives them a way to make an emotional connection. When you help customers learn, it helps them appreciate the product more.
► Design can differentiate a brand
Great Jones’ online presence is unique in the market, which helps set their brand apart from the competition. When you’re entering a well-established market as a newcomer, it’s important to find clever ways to stand out. Getting noticed is half the battle
► Strategic pricing helps you win
You need to understand your place in the market. Great Jones has positioned their brand as the affordable-upgrade alternative to more luxury-focused brands. This helps them appeal to their target market and gives the company a way to build revenue faster.
► Early relationships are important
Millennials are much more brand-conscious than most other consumers. Building an engaged customer base helps Great Jones increase awareness of their brand. You need to understand how to solidify customer relationships as quickly as possible to sustain your growth.
► Branding is more than just a logo
Great Jones has created a brand that’s modern and retro at the same time. Their website design, font choices, social media profiles, content, and photography are carefully tied together to support their brand identity. You need to have a strong brand to stand out in any market.