More than 60 years after its inception, Tupperware marketers are working hard to dispel what it says are dated perceptions of the brand (Cortese). Despite the fact that Tupperware products are still extremely successful – with a Tupperware party in progress every 2.5 seconds across the globe – the brand has, over the past five years, altered its communication strategy in an attempt to keep up with the next generation of consumers (Bax 171). Through the use of social media channels, Tupperware Brands is looking to expand its customer base while shunning traditional forms of advertising. But despite concerted efforts to update its image and to shake off its title as an ‘icon of suburbia’, Tupperware continues to target the same demographic it did in the 1950s: women caring for families (Clarke 133).
For several years, brands have been capitalising on the opportunities offered to them by social media. Primary channels include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but – in the very nature of the medium – new players (Instagram, for example) are constantly entering the race. These channels allow brands to gather fans and promote their products for free. In addition, brands can use advertising opportunities to promote their activity further on a cost-per-click or cost-per-impression basis (Facebook). Compared to traditional print and television advertising, this is a very low-cost opportunity for brands to exploit. Using paid activity, brands can broaden reach to capitalise on an environment where every new ‘follower’ is a potential new customer.
For a brand like Tupperware, which is seeking to revamp its image, social media encourages direct engagement in a way that traditional forms of marketing never could. Tupperware and other brands can directly appeal for feedback, gauge the popularity of products and ideas, and work to cultivate their own image. With more than 107,000 fans on the Tupperware US and Canada Facebook page alone, it is a platform ripe for the brand’s growth in the 21st century.
For more than 60 years, Tupperware has been an immensely successful, not to mention iconic, American brand. This is despite the fact that Tupperware Brands continue to avoid traditional advertising, relying instead on direct marketing, word of mouth, public relations, and celebrity endorsements (the brand, for example, sponsored Tori Spelling’s baby shower (see below)). The brand’s chief executive, Rick Goings, explained the aversion to traditional advertising, telling The New York Times that word-of-mouth endorsements “from someone you have confidence in is the absolutely best form” of marketing (Elliot).
Though Tupperware’s traditional method of non-advertising still brought the brand profits of $2.2 billion in 2008, social media is helping the brand reach the daughters and granddaughters of existing customers (Bax 171). As part of the ‘cool-ification’ of the brand, Tupperware Brands is capitalising on their reputation for quality, while shying away from links to ‘your mother’s Tupperware’ (Elliot). But although Tupperware is making a concerted effort to modernise perceptions of the brand, it is sticking with a tried and true target market. The brand heavily markets its products – the vast majority of which are cooking or food preparation items – to women caring for families.
In 1843, Catherine Beecher wrote that women are ‘the responsible guardian of the health of a whole family’ (Beecher 68). More than 150 years later, Tupperware continues to spruik this persisting idea on all its social media channels. Indeed, the use of airtight containers to keep raw, healthy produce fresh is one of the brand’s primary marketing messages. This plays into the idea that women – as the purchasers and preparers of food – will invest in products which promise to maintain the healthfulness of their husbands and children.
The above Facebook post is indicative of the persistent implication that women are invested in the health of those they care for. Tupperware plastics are shown sitting on a rustic wooden table, side by side with woven baskets filled with presumably freshly-picked berries. Vibrant colouring suggests freshness, while the baskets imply a level of homemade authenticity. A post from the same day on Twitter (below) spruiks the same series of containers, while linking their use to National Fruits and Vegie Month. By mentioning National Fruits and Vegie Month, Tupperware succeeds in making this Twitter post seem less like advertising. This is important for the brand’s image because it means Tupperware can advertise its products, while leading followers to believe the brand is invested in their ongoing good health.
Similar to its efforts on Facebook and Twitter, Tupperware actively seeks engagement with female customers on its YouTube channel. From the pink logo to the persistent Sex-and-the-City-esque music, the brand’s videos cater to a female audience.
Although almost of none of the videos feature narration or text (making them perfect for global distribution), the imagery is highly gendered. This particular video is sleek and unfussy, suggesting cleanliness and hygiene. The action of packing and unpacking the cake is very repetitive, indicating the durability of the product, which is contrasted with the daintiness of the cakes (which, we assume, have been baked and decorated by the white woman in the video). And, indeed, daintiness is a theme which is carried across many of the Tupperware videos, with the invariably female actors preparing small portions of colourful, visually-appealing food in Tupperware containers – without mess, of course. These factors, in combination, solidify Tupperware’s portrayal of woman in the home: she is clean, she is healthy, she cares about her family, and she cooks with Tupperware.
Tupperware’s foray into the territory of social media is, by its own admission, an attempt to revamp the image of the brand. Despite sticking its plastic toe in the waters of social media, however, the brand continues to target the same demographic that it did 60 years ago: women with families. Capitalising on long-held ideas of females as primary food and food-product purchasers, Tupperware stays latched onto the perception of females as domestic carers in an attempt to gain a new generation of customers.
Christina E. Bax, ‘Entrepreneur Brownie Wise: Selling Tupperware to America’s Women in the 1950s’, in Journal of Women’s History (2010) 22:2, 171-180.
Catherine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the use of Young Ladies at Home and at School (1843), Boston: Thomas H. Webb & Co.
‘Campaign Cost & Budgeting’, Facebook, accessed 19 July 2013, https://www.facebook.com/help/318171828273417/
Allison J. Clarke, ‘Tupperware: Suburbia, Sociality and Mass Consumption’ in Roger Silverstone (ed), Visions of Suburbia (1997) New York: Routledge.
Amy Cortese, ‘Tupperware Freshens Up the Party’, July 7 2007, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/07/business/07interview.html?_r=1& .
Stuart Elliot, ‘The Tupperware Party Moves to Social Media’, May 4 2011, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/05/business/media/05adco.html?_r=0 .