KitchenAid profiles women’s struggles, triumphs in restaurant industry with Hulu documentary

KitchenAid is making an ambitious content marketing play to spotlight women in the restaurant industry around Women’s Equality Day, which this year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. The kitchen appliance brand owned by Whirlpool Corporation today premiered a Hulu documentary detailing the struggles and triumphs of women working in the restaurant industry, according to details shared with Marketing Dive.

Titled “A Woman’s Place,” the 30-minute film was developed with agency Digitas, brand studio Vox Creative and creative studio Ventureland. Rayka Zehtabchi, the Academy Award-winning filmmaker behind Netflix’s “Period. End Of Sentence,” directed the short. The film is part of a special Hulu collection of films and TV programs centered on women’s empowerment. 

While the kitchenware maker’s business is more focused on general consumers than the foodservice sector, the effort shows the brand extending support to women pursuing culinary careers outside of the home.

“There’s a lot of different layers as to why KitchenAid is involved,” Mark Book, head of content, North America, at Digitas, said. “It’s a purpose-driven thing, it’s a brand-historical thing and it’s also a cause that they believe in and that they support.”

Developed with an eye on streaming services, the 30-minute Hulu exclusive is helmed by an Oscar-winning director, Zehtabchi, known for her documentary shorts centered on women’s issues. High-caliber talent behind the camera reflects the type of premium branded content play that is becoming more common in an era when many consumers are averse to traditional advertising.

Outside of KitchenAid’s name appearing in the credits and an outro detailing the marketer’s restaurant relief initiatives, “A Woman’s Place” features no KitchenAid product placement, Book said. As it downplays its branded elements, the film also aims to be provocative in profiling three up-and-coming female chefs — Marielle Fabie, Etana Diaz and Karyn Tomlinson — who are fighting to change their industry from within. KitchenAid decided not to center the movie on celebrity ambassadors to give the narrative a grounded approach.

“From a business perspective, we’re showcasing people who are in the fight for equality. They’re not established chefs,” Book said. “They’re women who probably started off as makers, who are [KitchenAid’s] core audience, and just fell in love with it so much that they now want to pursue that as their entire livelihood.”

The launch is at the same time an opportunity for KitchenAid to provide resources to restaurant employees as the industry continues to be battered by the pandemic.

“A Woman’s Place” wrapped filming just weeks before the coronavirus hit the U.S., according to Book, but KitchenAid is now tying in an element of COVID-19 relief through its work with the James Beard Foundation. Adjacent to the rollout, KitchenAid is working with the foundation’s mentorship initiative to advance the careers of women in the restaurant industry and to provide relief to businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

KitchenAid’s partnership with the foundation existed prior to the pandemic, but is evolving to meet demands particular to the health crisis, Cook said. Together, the two groups are focusing on guidance around areas like job hunting or safely reopening businesses, along with mentoring services.

“It was a long conversation and one we didn’t take lightly,” Book said of pivoting strategy last-minute due to COVID-19. “We also don’t want to come off as trying to take advantage of a situation.

“Part of the strategy was to extend to make sure we are providing both financial benefit to the COVID relief within the James Beard Foundation partnership, but also provide meaningful advice to people,” Book added.

Digitas, which previewed “A Woman’s Place” as part of its virtual presentation at the Interactive Advertising Bureaus Digital Content NewFronts earlier this year, was motivated to pursue the project after seeing research around women in the restaurant industry that it found “appalling.” Despite women making up a sizable portion of the workforce, just 7% are head cooks and chefs, according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Labor. The Publicis shop opted for a documentary approach after viewing the long-form work of other marketers like Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble at film festivals, per Book.

“The way people are engaging with content, it’s either shorter form content — five seconds to five minutes — or you’re having to lean back and experience this in 30 minutes or more,” Book said. “That was a different way to approach it from a traditional marketing perspective as opposed to a consumer-first point of view.”

Similar subject matter was tackled in “A Fine Line: A Woman’s Place in the Kitchen,” a separate documentary released in 2017 and directed by Joanna James. Despite coronavirus-related disruptions, Book said KitchenAid still plans to screen its film once festivals open back up. For now, it will appear in the Women’s Equality Collection playlist that will sit on the Hulu homepage throughout the week.

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