How pandemic baking helped KitchenAid ‘rise’ to a fundraising challenge

The premium appliance brand replaced a marquee event with livestreamed baking sessions geared towards its foodie audience.

KitchenAid made the most of Canadians boning up on their baking skills this year by using the trend to fill what might have otherwise been a major fundraising gap.

“Eat to the Beat” is an annual event sponsored by KitchenAid in which dozens of female chefs show off the best of Toronto’s culinary scene as a fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society.

When it became clear that the event would no longer be able to be held, agency partner Zulu Alpha Kilo helped the appliance brand create a wholly socially-based event called “KitchenAid’s Rise for the Cure.” On Oct. 24, the brand hosted live baking sessions, streamed simultaneously on Instagram and Facebook, with a particular focus on different types of bread – hence the name of the event. The at-home fundraiser allowed attendees to tune in and get real time tips from chefs that would be well-known to the foodies that might have typically turned out for “Eat to the Beat,” like Buca’s Rob Gentile, Chef du Jour’s Adrian Forte and Cluck N Cleaver’s Nicole Gomes.

In the lead-up, the social feeds of both KitchenAid Canada and the participating chefs amplified the event, and participants were encouraged to share images of their bread alongside reasons for Rising for the Cure to their own social circles, just like they would if it were a more traditional fundraising drive, complete with images of bread draped in a running bib. To further generate interest, KitchenAid tapped an influencer network and also created social stickers to spur user-generated content.

Janice Ryder, senior manager of brand experience at KitchenAid’s parent company Whirlpool, tells strategy that with many people turning to baking as a nostalgic and comforting at-home activity this year, KitchenAid Canada saw a chance for the trend to help fill a major fundraising gap. That was especially apparent given that so many of its customers – who are the kind of highly-engaged bakers that have kitchens outfitted with the brand’s premium cooking appliances – already follow chefs on social to get tips and tricks.

“What we know about consumers, whether they invest in small or major appliances, is they love to be creative and learn,” Ryder says. “The idea of a live stream really helped meet their needs and is a neat opportunity for chefs to show how to bake all different types of bread.”

Ryder concedes that from a fundraising perspective, online fundraisers are always more difficult than in-person ones. But when they’re linked to event and activities, even social media ones, they can begin to see engagement rise.

Digitizing its marketing and CSR efforts is not necessarily untred ground for KitchenAid. In 2016, KitchenAid based its breast cancer campaign entirely around social rather than a traditional media plays for the first time. Even though the pandemic gave it “no choice but to go virtual,” Ryder says learnings from that experience helped the organization better respond to the cancelation of its marquee fundraising event.

PR agency Hill + Knowltown and media agency Cossette Media helped amplify the event, with Cossette securing digital OOH placements through Pattison and Cineplex Media, in addition to space donated by Astral and Adapt Media.

When it comes to working with the Canadian Cancer Society over the years, Ryder says it has been a collaborative approach to make sure its work is “significant and meaningful.” The brand also helps out the Canadian Cancer Society through sales of its “Pink Portables” line, such as its raspberry Ice Stand Mixer, and donates $40 dollars for each unit sold.

“We want people to get into their kitchen and try something new, we want them to bake and donate,” Ryder says. Even though the event has passed, all of the videos remain live on social, giving anyone still looking for some baking advice and inspiration a drive to donate.