The Doreen Gray of Baking

The Doreen Gray of Baking

She has been writing recipes since the 1920s, has appeared on countless radio stations and has had her portrait painted on numerous occasions over the years – but like Dorian or perhaps Doreen Gray, she doesn’t seem to age and in fact often appears younger than she did in earlier portraits.

She, or at least her picture, has been brought into just about every household in the US and many more across the world. In 1945, she was the best known woman in the US next to Eleanor Roosevelt.

Her name is Betty Crocker, and she doesn’t really exist.

Betty’s birth, if you can call it that, can be traced back to a promotion run by the Gold Medal flour brand in 1921. The promotion allowed people to “win” a pin cushion in the shape of a flour sack.

Along with their entries, thousands of people sent in questions about their baking problems. The advertising manager at the time, Sam Gale, decided it would be good PR to answer the questions, but felt that it would be more appropriate and believable for responses to come from a woman. So Betty Crocker was born, in the form of a signature.

In 1924, she acquired a voice and appeared on the radio for the first time. In 1936, her portrait was painted for the first time, and by 1941 she was known to nine out of ten American housewives.

20 years on from there, Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook offered its readers advice such as: “Think pleasant thoughts while working and a chore will become a labour of love”. Fast-forward another 25 years and the focus of her cookbook became time-saving in the kitchen and producing “lively meals”.

The Betty Crocker brand name still appears on over 100 different products, while her appearance continues to change with the times.

For an advertising campaign in the 1990s, photographs of 75 different Becky Crocker users were taken and blended together to create a single, more modern and hopefully realistic image for the brand icon. She truly is a woman of many faces.


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