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The Heart-Centered Product That Created a Billion Dollar Industry

Copyright (c) 2009-2021

As I wrote this article, the film, "Julie and Julia," has so far, been a quite the summer hit.

"Julie and Julia is a light drama that tells the story of New Yorker, Julie Powell who challenged herself to cook every recipe in Julia Child's famous cookbook: "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" within one year.

In a parallel plot, the film covers Julia Child's early years in France which inspired her to write the cookbook.

The film's popularity has inspired a renewed interest in the Julia Child and the fascinating story about how "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" came to be.

================================
The Story Behind the Bestseller
================================

It wasn't very long ago when a typical American dinner was meatloaf, canned peas, and mashed potatoes. Maybe a salad made with iceberg lettuce, grated carrot and 1000 island dressing. And Jell-O for dessert.

You couldn't go out for Mexican food unless you lived in Southern California or Texas. Chinese food was chop suey and egg rolls. And Italian was pizza or spaghetti and meatballs.

The choices we now have at the grocery store, when we go out to eat, and the cook books and cooking shows are in part thanks to Julia Child's desire to prepare dishes she loved and to teach others to prepare those dishes as well.

When it was published in 1961, Mastering the Art of French Cooking became a "must-have" for many aspiring young wives.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking and the following it inspired made it possible for the hundreds of Italian, Mexican, and Asian foods now common in American grocery stores. It opened up possibilities for the extraordinary range of cuisines we can find in restaurants, not to mention the billion dollar business in cookbooks, cooking shows, and other media.

================================
Product Development Lessons á la Julia Child
================================

You may be thinking, "nice story but what does it have to do with me and my business and creating information products."

Here are the points I think are important:

#1 You Gotta Love It

Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the result of Julia Child's love of French cuisine. She didn't set out to make millions or to revolutionize how middle-class Americans thought about food.

She discovered something wonderful and amazing and wanted others to have that experience too.

The importance of love is that when you have that level of enthusiasm for something, you'll put up with a lot of crap.

Writing the book, "Mastering the Art of French Cooking," was not all Crêpes Suzette and champagne.

"Mastering the Art of French Cooking" began as a very different kind of book: it was a cookbook written by two French women who were fellow Cordon Bleu graduates. The cookbook was being published by an American publisher and Julia to provide an American perspective and review the recipes.

But as Julia reviewed the recipes she realized that they would be very difficult for American cooks to follow. Because many of the French ingredients, tools, and traditions simply didn't exist in the United States, American cooks would end up with dishes that simply didn't taste like the delicious French cuisine Julia had fallen in love with.

So Child decided to rework and rewrite the book and create foolproof recipes for classic French dishes that Americans could create in American kitchens with American ingredients.

Completely rewriting those recipes was not a small task. But Julia was determined to make it possible for Americans to prepare and enjoy the food she had fallen in love with.

Lesson: Make sure your product or service is based on something that energizes and inspires you. Otherwise, no amount of money will make up for the inevitable obstacles and frustrations that come up along the way.

#2 Love Trumps Market Need

Whoa, sacrilege at the altar of marketing!

It's a fine line for me to be suggesting sometimes the fact that you have a deep love or passion in your heart for something should be a reason for you to create a product or service. Especially when you have little solid evidence supporting you.

What if no one buys your product? What if everyone thinks it's stupid?

Lots and lots of "what ifs."

The world was not throwing money at Julia Child to write her cookbook so that they could cook Duck a l'Orange.

In fact the majority of publishers saw absolutely no commercial value in her project believing that American women were interested only in convenience: packaged mixes, canned and frozen vegetables, and TV dinners.

They couldn't imagine why anyone would want to take on the arduous task of preparing dishes from recipes with multiple steps, many of which involved creating something from scratch!

But she had a strong conviction that French food was something wonderful more people should experience and kept going despite rejection letter after rejection letter.

Lesson: I'm not suggesting you ditch everything and devote all your time, effort, and money into creating a love child product. No no no!

But I DO think if you have a product or service that is an expression of something you sincerely love, you need to take action towards creating that product or service.

Do not allow it to languish.

#3. Use Market Trends to Guide Your Marketing

Although you don't need to let apparent market needs dictate what you can and cannot do, it helps to offer a product that is in sync with trends that affect how your customers spend.

One of the reasons "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" became such a monster success was its publishing occurred during a time when Americans were beginning to look outward.

After World War II the United States was enjoying a period of unprecedented prosperity. When John F. Kennedy became president in 1960, first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy brought in a French chef and began serving fine French food and wines at White House functions.

An entire generation of young American women were fascinated by Jackie Kennedy's sophisticated style and imitated her way of dressing, her hair styles, and her interest in French food.

Mastering the Art of French Cooking was published in 1961 coinciding perfectly with the growing interest in culture and fine arts.

Lesson: Looking at the product or service you're developing, how do they fit into the trends which are shaping your customer's values, needs, and spending patterns.

#4. You Need a Few Others Who Love What You're Doing

No matter how deeply you care; no matter how in sync you are with current trends, you cannot do it alone.

We all need at least one cheerleader.

Julia Child was a maverick. As the daughter of well-to-do parents, she was expected to marry someone from a "good" family, have children, and spend her days doing what other well-to-do young wives did: play golf and tennis, have lunch at the club, volunteer at charitable events, and so on.

When she did marry instead of settling down and having babies she decided to go to cooking school and learn to cook classic French cuisine! Other Americans in the diplomatic services who were living in France at the time thought she was nuts. Why was she pursuing cooking: something typically left to housekeepers and other domestic workers?

But Julia's husband, Paul, who was himself, a decidedly unconventional type, encouraged her to pursue her passion. In fact he was actively involved in creating her book, helping her edit the massive 700+ page manuscript that would become "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

Julia also had an editor, Judith Jones at Knopf, who, unlike her peers in the publishing world, immediately 'got' "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

It was Jones who championed "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" and who was instrumental in getting first edition to press.

Lesson: If you are a small business owner who wants to make a real difference and wants to create a product that will help you, you need at least one devoted fan to help you get there.

===================================
Bottom Line
===================================

If you care deeply about leaving the world a little better off and have an idea for a product or service that will make a difference, I encourage you to follow Julia Child's example and to make a commitment to creating your product and bringing it to the marketplace.

There's no guarantee that you'll have a monster hit on your hands but one thing I know for certain:

  • You can't make a difference if your idea never sees the light of day

  • You can't make a difference creating products and services that your heart just isn't into.

  • If you are a small business owner and you have a choice between creating another crappy e-book and an e-book on something you genuinely care about at that your customers care about why not make a little extra effort and put something out into the world that puts a little more love out there?


    About The Author: Shop Amazon - Top Gift Ideas
    Judy Murdoch helps small business owners create low-cost, effective marketing campaigns using word-of-mouth referrals, guerrilla marketing activities, and selected strategic alliances. To download a free copy of the workbook, "Where Does it Hurt? Marketing Solutions to the problems that Drive Your Customers Crazy!" go to http://www.judymurdoch.com/workbook.htm
    You can contact Judy at 303-475-2015 or judy@judymurdoch.com

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