Duncan Hines Lets Them Eat Cake. Decadent, Sophisticated Cake.


Consider Duncan Hines the Avis of cake mixes. The brand is a perennial second to General Mills’ Betty Crocker, with 30.9% market share vs. 38.1% market share in the most recent data reported by research firm Symphony IRI Group.

But Duncan Hines keeps trying harder, as its recent foray into social marketing suggests. Actually, the brand may have tried a little too hard — it actually came under fire late last year for depicting animated cupcakes in a hip-hop fashion that some felt smacked of racism.

Despite the controversy, Duncan Hines keeps on trucking. Next stop: a new campaign that also departs from the traditional mom-and-kids baking scenario.[more]

The brand’s new campaign focuses on baking for fun, not necessarily (just) for family. It features the brand’s Triple Chocolate Decadent cake mix as the centerpiece of such adult recipes as chocolate cherry torte and Mexican chocolate cupcakes with cayenne pepper. The ad ends with the tagline, “Bake on” — and drives back to its Facebook page (not its more mom-friendly website) for the recipes.

What’s Duncan Hines up to? Lauren Connolly, a creative director at BBDO, the ad agency that created the campaign, tells the New York Times, “We looked at the category and we really tried to break out of the checklist of things you had to show — the mom and child, the smooth batter, the moistness, the frosting moment. We’re hoping this feels like a music video and appeals to people who are watching the Food Network and reading food magazines and seeking inspiration.” 

Music video indeed. Mark L. Schiller, president of the grocery division of Duncan Hines, said the campaign as moving away from moms to a “psychographic target of people who love to bake — including men who love to bake and young singles who love to bake.”

Clearly, the brand wants to help cake mixes rise to a whole new level. That could be one reason that the convenience and simplicity of using a cake mix, which serious bakers may consider cheating, is not the focus of the new campaign. In fact, the recipes are more involved than the cakes moms typically bake, designed instead to appeal to more sophisticated adult tastes.

“Time is not as much of a constraint,” explains Schiller. “If you love something — if you’re a painter you’ll paint for hours because you love it.”

So attention moms (and Tina Fey) — Duncan Hines is not just for kids anymore. No matter who you are, if you like to bake, Duncan Hines wants you to have your cake and eat it too.