Le Creuset, the venerable high-end cookware company, is hoping to transform into a "culture" brand. With its Insta-worthy rainbows of color, it's using recent collaborations with Disney, Harry Potter and Star Wars collections to connect with a new generation of chefs.
"The expectation was that we have a chance to engage different audiences," says Josh Lane, chief operating officer of FerebeeLane, the company's South Carolina-based ad agency. "And these movie tie-ins do seem a bit like strange bedfellows. But that has allowed us to jump into a new marketplace in ways that are genuine to who we are. And it demonstrates a commitment to the things people are passionate about."
"People don't have to use cookware this expensive," says Matt Ferebee, principal. "There's an emotional connection with the brand and a community around it."
Le Creuset, with its heavy-duty enameled cast iron cookware, has been available since 1925. But in 2009, when the brand got product placement in the foodie movie "Julie and Julia," it realized how quickly cultural references could drive sales and burnish its image.
"Le Creuset loved that they got fans in that movie, and it opened the company's eyes to the power of some of these partnerships," Ferebee says.
The past and upcoming collaborations invite people in at various price points, ranging from Harry Potter wand spatulas and Millennium Falcon waffle irons to Darth Vader Dutch ovens.
Ferebee says the trick has been combining product design with storytelling to fuel demand.
"The idea is to create not just product categories, but thematic ideas." “Star Wars” fans, for instance, love the idea that there is good and bad in the world, and they romanticize destinations like Tatooine.
And while Le Creuset is known for its bright enamel colors, the Han Solo roasting pan, for example, isn't enameled. Instead, it shows Solo cast in relief in “Star Wars'” fabled carbonite.
Offering them as limited-edition collaborations builds excitement and "makes it feel special,” says Ferebee. "The excitement comes through, and there's an appreciation that the world doesn't need an endless supply of cast-iron Darth Vader pots."
Content to promote the brand also taps into the creative rules for each property, incorporating toasted flour, rolls of bread dough and a deconstructed oven to "create a situation and environment that would feel consistent" with product use.
Regarding demographics, women continue to be the core audience for the French-owned cookware brand. Often, they give these items as gifts, particularly for wedding presents. "It's not surprising that the core 'Star Wars' fan is a 28-year-old male," says Lane. "So this gave Le Creuset the ability to reach a very different audience."
With the Harry Potter collection, it encouraged people to work the pieces into family movie-night traditions. "It's not that we expect a 12-year-old to be aligned with buying a $314 round Dutch oven for popcorn," says Ferebee. "But certainly, a family can see it's a delightful utility in a context where kids are part of the equation."
And while the two can't say what's next in terms of collaborations, "there's plenty in the pipeline for niche audiences," says Lane. "Next year has some things coming up that are incredibly exciting."