Saturday, September 27, 2008

Food Trends Memo: 'Let Them Eat Cupcakes:' Cupcakes Are So Popular They Even Beat Out 'Financial Crisis' Says Google Trends

Think American consumers are focused on the current financial crisis during these dark economic days of September?

You know, the financial crisis President George W. Bush, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson, Presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, and U.S. Congressional leaders of both parties are saying is so serious that if a $700 billion bailout package isn't passed immediately by Congress, signed by the President and implemented right away could, in the less than eloquent phrase uttered by President Bush at the end of the financial crisis summit meeting he held at the White House on Thursday, result in "This sucker (the U.S. economy) going down."

Think again.

Based on data from "Google Trends," the analytical tool provided by, which shows and ranks the most popular searches people are doing on Google, few Americans are "googling" the term "financial crisis" on the popular search engine

Mother Jones magazine was curious if Americans were going to Google in throngs in order to search and find out about the financial crisis which many serious people are saying could be the modern day version of the 1930's Great Depression, which was the most serious economic collapse in U.S. history.

Therefore, last Thursday Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones went to Google Trends and set the function's time period to September, 2008 to see what if anything Americans were searching for more than "financial crisis." By the way, anybody can use Google Trends. We do often.

And guess what writer Stein found Americans were far more interested in learning about in percentages far exceeding searches about the "financial crisis?"

The number one ranked search for September so far isn't the "financial crisis," nor even "economic crisis."

Rather, the overwhelmingly most popular search on Google thus far in September is for "cupcakes," that delicious mouth-sized cake treat that's been becoming one of the hottest food (and more specifically dessert) trends in the U.S. for the last few years.

As you can see in the chart at the top of this story, "cupcakes" (the gold-colored trend line), "sex toys" (green line) and "wizards" (reddish-brown line) are all overwhelmingly far more popular search terms on in September than "financial crisis" is.

In fact, according to Google Trends, Americans also are interested in the following topics, after the top three above, far more than they are in "financial crisis." Those topics are:

"Bristol Palin": searched for 17.5 times more often than "financial crisis" in September; "Puppies": 24.4 times more; "Vacation": 28.6 times more; "Fashion": 44 times more than "financial crisis"; "Fantasy Football": 44 times more "Baseball": 50.5 times more"; and Sex": searched 292 times more than "financial crisis."

If we recall our history correctly, a few century's ago the very aristocratic former Queen of France was reported to have said in response to a question about what her country should do during its time of severe economic crisis -- so severe in fact that the people were on the edge of revolt -- "Let them (the people) Eat Cake."

In the case of cupcakes and Google Trends' analysis, it appears that in this current financial and economic crisis in the United States, the desire to eat -- and learn more about cupcakes -- is a grass roots movement rather than a top-down dictatorial edict like the one given by Marie Antoinette, who met her fate at the receiving end of a guillotine.

This isn't the end of the story though.

Before you (readers) get bent out of shape about the intelligence and priorities of the American people -- cupcakes and wizards over financial crisis for example -- a Mother Jones reader points out in the comments section of the publication his theory for why "cupcakes" is so much more popular of a searched topic than "financial crisis."

Doing a little research on Google Trends himself, Andrew Hires says the reason "financial crisis" rates so far below cupcakes (and all the other topics we listed) is because Americans using Google are using the search term "bailout" to read and learn about the current financial mess instead of "financial crisis. Here's Mr. Hires' comment on Mother Jones:

"It's because they are all searching for the term "bailout". 5x the cupcakes rate."

Posted by: Andrew Hires on 09/25/08 at 3:43 PM Respond

You will notice in his comment he provides a link to his Google Trends analysis, which does show "bailout" having five times the search trend rate than does "cupcakes."

We tend to agree with him on this. After all, most Americans know there is a financial crisis -- they don't need to look it up on Google. But what they are very interested and concerned about is the Bush Administration's proposed $700 billion "bailout" of the Wall-Street financial firms. Like the man once said about government: "Follow the money." For Americans "the money" (Their tax dollars) is in learning more about the proposed "bailout" rather than searching for generic information about the "financial crisis."

But with all this said, the fact American consumers are so interested in cupcakes is in and of itself a very interesting and potentially valuable piece of data.

If you are a supermarket chain vice-president or director of bakery, an in-store bakery category manager at a supermarket chain or independent, a bakery department manager in a supermarket, an executive of a bakery chain or the owner of a single bakery, or in the baked goods manufacturing business, the response to this information should be rather clear -- MORE cupcakes. Make more varieties, build more in-store bakery cupcake displays, cross merchandise cupcakes in other parts of the store, promote cupcakes...and more. Get on the great cupcake bandwagon, in other words.

It's clear Americans are very interested in cupcakes. We suggest those of you in the baked goods business, at whatever segment or level, make it easier for these very interested consumers to buy and eat more cupcakes.

We'll even suggest a sign to go with one of those in-store bakery cupcake displays we suggested above. That sign would have a picture of Democratic candidate for President Barack Obama on the left and a picture of his Republican challenger John McCain on the right; with an American flag pictured between them.

Below the pictures and the American flag, the text would read: "Let Them Eat Cupcakes."

And of course, the cupcakes being featured in the display would have three colors of frosting: red, white and blue.

After all, with a financial crisis in progress and the U.S. Presidential election just a little over a month away, consumers need a little food indulgence. (A little wizard and sex toy indulgence it appears as well, according to Google trends.)

Cupcakes can be a very comforting and affordable indulgence. They're sweet treats that don't do too much damage to either the pocketbook or the waistline.

And, as we now know, cupcakes are currently top-of-mind among many American consumers. In fact, we bet at least one or two of the shoppers among the many who will buy the cupcakes on that "Let Them Eat Cupcakes" in-store display will be among the millions who've searched "cupcakes" on Google.

1 comment:

TaraMetBlog said...

ha very interesting ... let them eat cupcakes!