Marketing & PR Lessons Learned From Apple Butter

Apple ButterEvery couple of years, my husband and I are given some apple butter made by the members of Tuckasegee Wesleyan Church- a tiny little church tucked away in the mountains of North Carolina. We cherish it. It’s some of the best we’ve had.

Earlier this month, my husband and I visited his family near Tuckasegee and I learned the story behind the apple butter. I couldn’t help but marvel over what an excellent lesson in marketing and public relations is demonstrated by their apple butter sales process.

Every year, people clamor to place orders for the church’s apple butter. They don’t simply purchase it by the jar; many people buy it by the case. The pastor stops taking orders at 250 jars so he can ensure that people who show up the day the apple butter is made have a shot at purchasing some.

So what does any of this have to do with marketing and public relations? A lot. Congregants of this church make their apple butter just once per year during North Carolina’s apple season. That means those who want some have a tiny window in which to buy it. Between pre-orders and sales on the day the apple butter is canned, every single jar they make is sold.

I don’t love the analogy, but this marketing approach reminds me of McDonald’s and its McRib sandwich. The fast food chain rolls out the McRib sandwich for a limited time every so often. People come in droves to buy the sandwiches. And when it’s removed from the menu, McRib lovers wait in anticipation for its return.

Once an item is introduced and people grow to love it, pulling it out of arm’s reach seems to have an incredible effect on our human desire to want that which we can’t have. Lots of analysts have argued that were the McRib on the McDonald’s menu full-time, it wouldn’t be as popular. In fact, MSN Money wrote a great article on this topic recently.

The members of Tuckasegee Wesleyan Church don’t can apple butter only once a year because they want to follow in the marketing footsteps of McDonald’s. The fact is that making apple butter in such a large quantity is a time-consuming, two-day process that involves just about every member of the church. It’s a lot of work. But I love how they benefit from the “limited time only” nature of their operation.