Today is Shrove Tuesday, better known as Pancake Day – or in the UK, in irony – often referred to as Jif Lemon Day.
Jif Lemon is a quite weird product. It is a small plastic “bottle” in the shape of a lemon, and contains lemon juice along with a gazillion preservatives etc.
Quite why anyone would use Jif Lemon instead of a real lemon is beyond me, unless you use a tiny splashes of lemon juice over a long time frame.
That said – I hugely admire the company. They managed to turn a rather odd product into what is almost a cultural icon.
So, why does it still sell?
I think it is a mixture of different issues.
Firstly, the product was actually quite popular when I was a kid. For me, Pancake Day would always include Jif Lemon – as it fitted the social opinions of the time which favoured processed food over fresh.
Today, we (fortunately) have learnt the errors of that and aim to eat as much fresh food as possible – so why does this little bottle of processed lemon juice still sell in such vast quantities.
I think the genius was about a decade ago, when the company came up with its infamous marketing slogan…
“Don’t forget the pancakes on Jif Lemon Day”.
They bucked the general advertising trend which was to spread a brand appeal over as wide a range as possible – and actually focused it on just one event – Pancake Day.
In doing this – they made the product synonymous with Pancake Day – and guaranteed its future.
So many brands which tried to spread out their appeal to more and more markets actually lost focus and faded, but not that dear little yellow bottle, which today is utterly focused on just one event a year.
In doing so – I am willing to bet that they sell more in the week leading up to pancake day than if they had tried to remain the all round replacement for fresh lemons.
So, why do I still buy this little bottle once a year? Partly, the irony of it all – but also as it is now so utterly linked with the pancake event, and it is also a dose of nostalgia for when my parents would buy the same small bottle.
Kids growing up today will also forever associate Pancake Day with that little yellow bottle, as their parents buy it each year in memory of their own childhood.
In a hundred years time, people will still go out and buy a small bottle of processed lemon juice as each generation passes the tradition down to the next.
Not a bad result for a small plastic bottle, and as awful a concept as the product is to our modern eyes, long may it continue to dominate Jif Lemon Day.
Here is a little video showing how Jif Lemons are made.