Did Tupperware invent social networking? Fifties parties were the first Facebook claim the plastic container company
Did Tupperware invent social networking Fifties parties were the first Facebook claim the plastic container company
10:27 PM on 10th May 2011
Tupperware parties may conjure up quaint images of 1950s suburban domesticity, hosted by housewives across the world, but they are widely considered to be an early form of a latter-day phenomenon: social networking.
The word-of-mouth model of direct sales and marketing developed by Tupperware relied upon trusted relationships between women.
Now the 65 year-old brand is embracing the modern-day equivalent, launching an ambitious social media strategy to ‘coolify’ the company’s image.
Chat rooms: Tupperware parties during the Fifties and Sixties were early forms of social networking before Facebook and Twitter
On Thursday, the Tupperware Brands Corporation launches a new Facebook page and Twitter handle in a bid to increase brand awareness among a younger generation who may have no relationship with the company and itskitchenware containers with their famous ‘burping seal’.
They”ve drafted in former American Idol winner, 29 year-old Kelly Clarkson, as one of the faces of the new strategy, who will feature in online videos for the campaign, which carries the tagline “chain of confidence”.
Ready to conquer: Kelly Clarkson, the former American Idol winner, will feature in online videos for the company”s campaign
“Tupperware has always been about empowering women, and our new strategy is a very natural step, to take advantage of social media and move that empowerment message online,” said Elinor Steele, Vice-President of Global Communications and Public Relations for Tupperware brands.
“Kelly Clarkson is the perfect ambassador, as not only is she an extremely confident young woman, but is hugely influential in the social media world, with over two million Facebook fans and almost 900,000 followers on Twitter.”
Miss Clarkson will also headline a concert in New York later this month, called Confide + Conquer, which is sponsored by Tupperware.
“It is a very smart move on the part of Tupperware to go back to its roots in a sense, although those roots have been updated for a digital age,” said Roben Allong, market research consultant at brand consultancy and trend forecasters Reality Check Inc.
“Facebook represents the same type of social get-together with like-minded friends as a Tupperware party, except that it’s not in someone’s actual home, but a virtual host-home instead.”
While Tupperware will be hoping that the new digital presence will attract a younger consumer, they are by no means abandoning their established customer base.
“The biggest growth group in social media, especially on Facebook, is baby-boomers [those born between 1946 and 1964], who are in their forties, fifties and sixties now,” said Ms. Along.
“So it makes great sense for Tupperware to use it as a tool to communicate with their core consumers as well as to reach a new potential market.”
The chain of confidence campaign will also feature so-called “confidence counsellors”, who will regularly post videos, motivational tips and personal experiences, to help, as Ms. Steele said “enlighten, educate and empower women”.
Facing the future: Tupperware plan to take their parties into the digital age via Facebook to “coolify” the company”s image
The two initial confidence counsellors are Beverly Bond, a New York DJ and former model, who founded the mentoring organisation Black Girls Rock, and Abby Zeichner, a plus-size clothing designer and owner of the fashion line Abby Z.
The images and messages to be posted on the new Facebook page (facebook.com/chainofconfidence) steer well clear of any hard sell, however.
In her one-minute video filmed in Nashville, Tennessee, Miss Clarkson does not mention Tupperware productsat all, and neither, in her clip, does Ms Bond. Ms Zeichner uses the phrase ‘Tupperware parties’ only in passing.
This new strategy for Tupperware Brands is not borne of any need to rescue a business languishing in the doldrums. Last week, the company, which is listed on the New York Stock Exchange, closed at almost $65 a share. And that success is replicated in almost 100 countries worldwide in which the company has a presence.
The burping seal is not to be sniffed at; South Africa’s top-selling Tupperware consultant is turning over $14 million of products each year. In France, in spite of the sluggish economy, Tupperware sales grew 17 per cent in the first quarter of the year.
This success is, in part, due to the improved and updated range of products the company is offering, including $550 sets of knives, microwave steamers for $147, beauty products and high-end stainless steel pans.
But Tupperware has, like Amway, Avon and other direct selling companies,also seen a huge growth in emerging markets, which now make up 57 per cent of the Orlando-based company’s revenue. Tupperware is proving popular in fast-growing countries which lack established retail infrastructure or income opportunities for women.
Fortune in food: Tupperware have expanded their product range from the traditional storage bowls at $49.99 to top of range Chef Pro knives at $550. Last year the company savoured a tasty total of $2,300 million sales
Tupperware Brands was founded by Earl S. Tupper, a former landscape gardener from New Hampshire, who was forced out of business during the Great Depression of the 1930s and took a job with the DuPont Chemical Company.
Using pieces of rigid polyethylene, he created lightweight, non-breakable cups, bowls, plates and even gas masks that were used in World War II.
In 1946, he patented the famous ‘burping seal’, the means of keeping containers airtight which was for decades the most famous aspect of the Tupperware brand.
The company’s success exploded in the 1950s thanks to its army of self-employed female hosts, who sold the products directly to their friends and neighbours through parties or ‘jubilees’.
“Tupperware met a real need for women after World War II,” said Ms Steele. “Women had been working en-masse for the first time, but when their husbands returned from war, they were told to go back to the kitchen. They missed their jobs and they missed the interaction with other women that work had brought them.”
The food storage revolution of the Fifties: A party host introduces her eager neighbours to the full range of polyethylene Tupperware products
The leverage which Tupperware gave to so many women – to earn their own money and grow a business – also created new opportunities for a previously underrepresented demographic, the suburban housewife, and is credited with helping to push forward equal opportunities in the workplace.
Today, Tupperware still offers a vital earning option for some women. The company currently has over 2.6 million consultants globally, up from two million three years ago.
“More people have come to Tupperware as a way to supplement their income in tougher times, or because they have been laid off as a result of the recession,” said Julie Levinthal, from Maloney and Fox, the New York public relations firm masterminding Tupperware’s social media strategy.
“But more people these days are also turned on to earning opportunities which mean they are not beholden to large companies and corporations.”