Instant Pot’s community-led path to becoming a household name
The early 2010s kitchen appliance market was dominated by traditional slow cookers and pressure cookers, often seen as bulky and complex. Enter InstantPot, a game-changing appliance that combines multiple functionalities in one easy-to-use device.
This beloved kitchen companion quickly gained popularity, fostering a warm and enthusiastic community of home cooks who cherish its convenience and versatility.
Instant Pot's meteoric rise can be largely attributed to its focus on community, which leveraged the power of social networking and user-generated content to create a loyal following of home cooks.
The global cooking community is incredibly strong and passionate, so it's no surprise that people love to gather and share their favorite Instant Pot recipes, further strengthening the connections among cooking enthusiasts.
This case study explores the key components of Instant Pot's community-led growth and how this innovative approach helped the brand differentiate itself in a crowded market.
A quick history
“Put an Instant Pot in every kitchen.” Wait, that’s not what Bill Gates said when starting Microsoft! No, that’s Robert Wang, the Instant Pot inventor who tries to emulate business icons like Gates and Steve Jobs.
A computer scientist by trade, Wang and his team of engineers sought to create an all-in-one kitchen appliance that simplified the cooking process. They aimed to eliminate the need for multiple appliances, reduce cooking time, and make the entire process more energy-efficient.
This led to the birth of the Instant Pot - a versatile appliance that combined the functions of a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, and more.
First launched in 2010, the Instant Pot would become one of the most popular products in Amazon history, routinely leading Prime Day sales. In 2018, it sold over 300,00 units in 36 hours.
While the product’s innovative design and versatility endeared itself to users immediately, it was Wang’s insistence on leveraging the cooking community – one ripe for connection – to market Instant Pot themselves.
“The objective was to get old customers and new customers and non-customers all to talk.”
Product and values
From its humble beginnings as a startup, Instant Pot has grown exponentially over the years. The first Instant Pot model, IP-LUX, was introduced in 2010, and its success paved the way for numerous iterations and refinements over the next decade.
Each features additional functionalities and improvements to cater to the evolving needs of home cooks.
InstantPot stood out from other kitchen appliances by focusing on three core values: convenience, efficiency, and versatility. The goal was to create a product that made cooking enjoyable and accessible for everyone, regardless of their culinary skills.
But it wasn't just about the product itself; InstantPot recognized the importance of building a supportive and engaged user community. This focus on fostering genuine connections with their users proved to be a game-changer for the company's growth.
While many companies in the kitchen appliance market relied heavily on traditional advertising channels, Instant Pot decided to take a different route.
Instead of investing in expensive ad campaigns or celebrity endorsements, the company prioritized word-of-mouth marketing through social media platforms.
This decision proved to be a masterstroke, allowing Instant Pot to harness the power of user-generated content and social proof to generate momentum and build a loyal customer base.
The power of Facebook
It started in 2015 with the simple process of making a Facebook page. The Instant Pot team began by sharing easy-to-follow recipes, cooking tips, and product demonstrations to create a valuable resource for their users.
They also encouraged their customers to share their own experiences, recipes, and success stories with the Instant Pot. This user-generated content provided social proof for the brand and helped create camaraderie and support among the community members.
Layers and layers
As the Facebook community grew, Instant Pot users from all walks of life – charmingly dubbed “Potheads” – began to form subgroups based on their specific interests and dietary preferences, such as vegan cooking, keto recipes, and even Instant Pot cooking for college students.
These subgroups allowed users to connect with like-minded individuals, exchange ideas, and further personalize their Instant Pot experience.
The Instant Pot team, and Wang in particular, was perfectly content letting people branch out. In an interview with Inc., the founder agreed that “one community cannot cater to all needs,” so he actively supports the hundreds of other groups and best-selling cookbooks that use the Instant Pot name as free marketing.
The pot boils over
The positive buzz surrounding the Instant Pot spread rapidly across other media platforms, like Instagram and Twitter, where celebrities and even politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez started sharing their Instant Pot stories.
This organic growth was further fueled by influencers and bloggers who embraced the Instant Pot and shared their experiences with their audiences. As a result, the Instant Pot community expanded exponentially, leading to increased brand recognition, customer loyalty, and, ultimately, sustained sales growth.
It became so ubiquitous, just as Wang had hoped, that even popular television shows like Family Guy were parodying the fervent community. Sales only increased, proving once again that any press is good press.
The Facebook group, which is still active today, has nearly 3.2 million members.
Pillars of the strategy
Instant Pot's remarkable success story is built on a foundation of three key strategic pillars: space, prompts, and structure. By understanding and implementing these elements, the company was able to inspire and empower its community, creating a thriving ecosystem of passionate home cooks who championed the brand.
1. Space: Fostering a supportive environment
Instant Pot recognized the importance of providing a safe and inclusive space for users to connect, share, and learn from one another. By creating and nurturing this environment, the company enabled its community to flourish, driven by a common passion for cooking and a shared love for the Instant Pot.
This supportive space became a fertile ground for the exchange of ideas, experiences, and inspiration, allowing users to grow and evolve together.
2. Prompts: Igniting creativity and engagement
To keep the community engaged and motivated, Instant Pot understood the value of providing meaningful prompts that stimulated conversation and creativity. By sharing recipes, tips, and challenges, the company encouraged users to explore new culinary possibilities and share their unique creations.
These prompts acted as catalysts for innovation, helping users overcome their fears and unlock their full potential in the kitchen. Rituals are an important element for the success of every community.
3. Structure: Maintaining focus through strict moderation and management
A critical element of Instant Pot's community-driven strategy was establishing a well-moderated and managed environment that ensured productive and respectful interactions among users.
By implementing strict moderation policies and guidelines, Instant Pot was able to keep the community focused on the joy of cooking and prevent any potential conflicts or distractions from derailing the group's positive atmosphere.
The company actively monitored discussions and promptly addressed any issues that arose, maintaining a balanced and inclusive space for all members. This vigilant management approach helped users feel supported and respected, fostering a sense of trust and camaraderie within the community.
What can we learn?
Instant Pot's community-driven growth is an inspiring example for other brands looking to establish a strong presence and lasting connection with their customers – especially those in the cooking space.
By analyzing the core elements of Instant Pot's strategy, we can identify valuable lessons that can be integrated into other businesses' marketing approaches:
Emphasize user-generated content
Instant Pot's success demonstrates the power of user-generated content in fostering a strong and supportive community around your brand.
By actively engaging with customers, encouraging them to share their experiences, and providing a platform to showcase their achievements, you can create a loyal following that will champion your products and services.
Utilize social connections for organic growth
Instant Pot harnessed the potential of social connections to create buzz and drive word-of-mouth marketing. By focusing on user experiences and authentic interactions, brands can generate organic growth and build a strong online presence without relying on expensive advertising campaigns.
Ensure a safe and inclusive environment
Establishing a well-moderated and managed community helps maintain a positive atmosphere and keeps the focus on your brand's core values. By implementing strict moderation policies and addressing potential issues promptly, you can foster a sense of trust and respect among your customers.
Adapt and evolve with your community
As your community grows and diversifies, it's essential to remain responsive to their needs and preferences. By actively participating in discussions, gathering feedback, and refining your products and services accordingly, you can foster a sense of loyalty and commitment among your customers.
Embracing community in the culinary world
Instant Pot's remarkable journey serves as a powerful reminder that, in today's interconnected world, the key to a brand's success lies in its ability to forge genuine connections with its customers, especially in the thriving cooking community.
Businesses can create a lasting impact that transcends traditional marketing approaches by focusing on user-generated content, leveraging social media for organic growth, and cultivating a safe, inclusive, and engaged community.
As you embark on your own path toward building a successful brand in the culinary sphere, remember to prioritize the human element – the shared experiences, stories, and connections that make your community unique.
Embrace the power of your users' voices, and provide them with the tools and resources they need to succeed. Actively participate in discussions, gather feedback, and be responsive to your community's evolving needs.
In the words of Instant Pot's founder: “Get the product right, treat the customers well, and get them talking. And that’s it.” By doing so, you'll create a loyal following and foster a sense of purpose and belonging that will inspire your customers to become ambassadors for your brand.
In this way, you'll unlock the true potential of your business, transforming it from a mere product or service provider into a movement that resonates with people's hearts and minds.
So, take the leap and embrace the power of community-driven growth.