Our Place started when Shiza Shahid realized that there was a lack of cookware options for multiethnic American kitchens — and a lack of kitchen space to store them in. To address this issue, Shahid created the multipurpose “Always Pan”, designed to perform the job of eight different pieces of cookware: a frying pan, saute pan, steamer, skillet, saucier, saucepan, nonstick pan, spatula, and spoon rest. In just three years since its launch, Our Place now has a rapidly growing revenue of 3.8 million per year, secured 9.9 million in venture funding, and has once garnered a 30,000-person wait list for its always-out-of-stock “Always Pan”.
Unsurprisingly, the “Always Pan” — with its stylishly muted color and sunlit product photos — has exploded over social media platforms, gaining a reputation for becoming that ‘Instagram-famous’ cooking pan that remarkably lives up to its hype. With so many different cookware brands in the market, how did Our Place stand out against its competitors with a product as mundane as the cooking pan?
At the core of Our Place’s rapid success is its branded content strategy, and its dedication to selling not just its (albeit very well made) product, but an entire lifestyle of the aspirationally effortless modern home cook. From curated recipes to comedic TikToks, artist interviews, and IG Live conversations, Our Place doesn’t confine itself to product promotions and instead uses its content to situate its product and brand within the broader culture of finding joy through cooking.
What Is Branded Content?
Branded content has many purposes; it can demonstrate product benefits, drive purchase behavior, build brand awareness, solidify brand positioning, or advertise time-sensitive discounts. Historically, the core of many brands’ content strategy has been focused on the primary goal of promoting its product to achieve revenue growth. It’s tempting to chase revenue and focus on driving high-ROI purchase behavior — such is the appeal of instant gratification, yet what successful brands are beginning to realize is that there is more hidden, long-term value in creating content that might not be considered “successful” according to conventional KPIs. In contrast to traditional top-of-funnel awareness and acquisition strategies, branded content shifts the focus to a more down-funnel strategy through retention, referral, and organic acquisition loops.
How Does Our Place Use Branded Content?
Take Our Place’s recipe series for example. It would be easy to churn out recipe after recipe, making sure to include obvious product links to steer consumers towards the product shop page. Our Place’s recipes, however, feature a level of meticulous curation that inspires audience engagement and humanizes the brand with a familiar brand story. Our Place celebrates Earth Day with a recipe from farmer, forager, and activist Indy Officinalis, challenges the assumption that Black food is always unhealthy with food writer Nadia Boachie’s kontomire stew, and honors classic traditions with actor Mark Delicato’s four-generation Seven Fishes stew. Today’s consumers are no longer looking for mere utility, but are interested in high-quality lifestyle content, relatable user-generated content (UGC), or expert-backed infographics that provide inspiration, education, and entertainment — affectionately called ‘edutainment’ in some circles. Despite not being intuitively linked to driving purchase behavior, content that provides inspiration, education or entertainment contributes to building a holistic brand universe, thus forming a long-lasting relationship between the brand and the target consumer to leverage a higher potential LTV.
Successful Branded Content Focuses On The “Why.”
Despite all the challenges of the pandemic, Our Place has seen growth every month since it launched, both before and after the pandemic. With the newfound excess of free time to cook, it should come as no surprise that cookware sales shot up in 2020; the Cookware Manufacturers Association reported that US cookware sales were up 36.2% in Q3 of 2020 versus 2019, and that overall from January to September, cookware sales were up 20.7% in 2020 versus 2019. As a result of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, American consumers shifted $23 billion in spending towards groceries and cookware instead of restaurants and dining. According to the food industry association FMI, while Americans spent 52% of their food budget outside of grocery stores and supermarkets in February of 2020, that number quickly decreased to just 34% in a matter of two months. The timing was perfect for Our Place to take advantage of the growth in the cookware market in 2020, yet they continued to grow in 2022 even after restrictions were eased and vaccinations were rolled out.
Our Place’s content strategy didn’t just capitalize on the “New Normal”, it adapted to changing consumer preferences by focusing on the “why” behind behavioral shifts. It’s true that consumers were driven to home cooking primarily due to restaurant closures and lockdown restrictions, but such logistical inducements were only the beginning of the story. A newfound excess of free time to cook became a newfound appreciation for the enjoyment of cooking, which also became a newfound interest in transforming the kitchen into a place of comfort and entertainment. Consumers were investing in better ingredients, better recipes, and of course — better cookware, thus accelerating a cultural trend towards curated kitchen spaces that grows and persists even after the pandemic. Our Place understood the psychology behind its target audience’s behavioral shift, and leaned into it; presenting the version of the home kitchen consumers wanted to build, one with colorful cookware, organic ingredients, novel recipes, and most of all, effortless joy.
Branded Content Is Mission-Driven And Consistent
At the end of the day, Our Place’s content appeals to its consumers because of its consistent message of building inclusivity through embracing the joy of home-cooking. As a human rights activist and co-founder of the Malala Fund, Our Place founder Shiza Shahid pivoted into the cookware space after discovering the erasure and co-option in the culinary world, especially when it came to cooking and farming techniques and traditions that were owned, invented, and developed by communities of color. While the “Always Pan” is impressive in its own right as a beautiful and functional product, it is the brand’s mission-driven content that solidifies Our Place as a market leader in the saturated cookware space. After providing the impetus for the creation of Our Place, Shahid’s dedication to telling stories of different cultures and traditions continues to imbue the brand with purpose and authenticity. Every piece of content that Our Place publishes, from recipes to interviews, is grounded in the brand’s unwavering commitment to building inclusivity.
What is “good” content, you ask? It’s when content reflects a consistent dedication to a brand’s purpose-led mission. It’s when Mid-Autumn Festival and Día de los Muertos is celebrated alongside Christmas and Thanksgiving. It’s when consumers are able to see, across all platforms and brand touchpoints, that all the witty taglines and well-shot photography mean something more than just a commercialized facade.
Create Better Branded Content Today
Our Place disrupted the cookware industry by placing content strategy at the heart of its brand initiatives, curating a covetable lifestyle of authentic home cooking that appeals to today’s generation of modern home cooks. The eight-in-one cooking pan brand knew that a good product starts — but never ends — with functional utility; it needs to be able to inspire, entertain, and educate consumers far beyond its practical usage. Brands can learn from Our Place’s success by exploring multiple types of content and understanding that content can serve a myriad of different purposes, each with its own inherent value.
If you’re going to build your branded content strategy, the best time to start was yesterday. As always, if you need a little help getting there, we’re always here.