It Started with Content…How a Food Blog Became a Recipe for Brand Success
Food Blogs: Passion Project, Content Marketing, or Both?
Whether you write them, read them, or get sent them by your friends (I always say I’ll make that recipe and never do!), you’ll have seen the samey food blogs attempting to whet an audience’s appetite in an already stuffed market…
So when one evolves out of the “just-another-food-blog”/passion project category and becomes a big business, there’s definitely some content lessons we can learn.
When Ella Mills started posting recipes to her blog, Deliciously Ella, in 2012 it was originally just a hobby. Now, the brand is practically a household name!
This installment of our It Started with Content case study series reveals how Ella Mills made the journey from blogger to businesswoman and what secret ingredients she used to grow the blog into such a big brand.
How to Cook-up Great Content
Before I get into the lessons we can learn from Ella’s journey, here’s the backstory.
In 2012, Ella was suffering with some major health challenges. She decided to change her diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle to help.
But after looking online for inspiration, she found her options were pretty limited. She said all the healthy recipes were missing “a bit of sparkle”. So she decided to start her own food blog.
It seems like a simple entrepreneur origin story: you want something, it doesn’t exist in the way that you want to, so you go out and create it yourself.
But let’s drill down into it a bit more.
While Ella was creating and sharing content because it was fun for her — she had no initial dreams of it becoming a business at all — she also had a key driver behind it. Her health was a major factor in creating these recipes, so it was all coming from a very genuine place.
Also, Ella was determined to put her own “sparkle” into her blog. From the get-go, she wanted to create something with personality, that she’d like to read.
Whether she realized it or not, from the very beginning, Ella had established her brand voice and already had a vision for her content.
The Key Ingredient to Success
Ella’s blog ticked along. She posted recipes and her friends and family read and shared. In the first 6 months, Deliciously Ella received around 100k hits.
6 months later, it was receiving 9x that amount.
With a million website hits under her belt, Ella decided it was time to diversify. She started her social media platforms and began taking her content to new audiences in new ways — the first principle of content repurposing!
I believe this was a key ingredient to Ella’s success, she saw her content was gaining momentum, and capitalized on it by amplifying it’s reach.
This has been a common theme in the It Started with Content case studies…when one content format starts to strike a chord, then it’s time to branch out!
Repurposing, Recipes, and Restaurants
Today, Ella still repurposes her content to her social media channels. But she’s not strictly blogging anymore, all her recipes and healthy lifestyle content go straight to the subscription-based Deliciously Ella app — just one of the many products under the Deliciously Ella brand.
In fact, the Deliciously Ella brand has grown in many directions, with:
- A subscription-based app
- 6 bestselling cookbooks
- 7 lines of food products
- A podcast with more than 10m downloads
- And a restaurant in London
It’s crazy to think that all of that content, products, books, and even the restaurant can stem from just one blog, but that’s the power of content!
By continuing to keep the ball rolling, Ella’s brand grew and grew. Each time a new content opportunity came along that aligned with her vision and fit her audience, Ella took it.
In an interview with Steven Bartlett for his Diary of CEO podcast, Ella said that she turned down several opportunities because they weren’t right for her business. Instead, she wanted to focus on providing content that was “useful” to her audience.
I think this is also key to the brand’s success — Ella only pursued opportunities that made sense for the Deliciously Ella brand, and fit with the healthy lifestyle ethos.
3 Takeaways From Ella’s Content Journey
While Ella certainly did a lot of things right on her journey to business and content success, there are three things that really stand out.
1. The brand became so much more than virtual
I already touched on this briefly, but Ella’s content led her to opportunities that allowed her to branch out into areas far wider than her online brand.
When Ella first started her social media channels, she also ran in-person cooking classes and workshops. Now, she has a restaurant, and physical products that you can actually eat!
Ella’s content has very literally jumped straight off the screen and into our mouths.
In a diverse content marketing strategy, you might give your audience the choice to consume your content by watching, listening or reading it…but Ella gives you the choice to make her recipes yourself, buy them in-store, or get someone else to make them for you!
I really love when content breaks the fourth wall in these inventive ways. It’s such a brilliant way to involve your audience or find a new one who isn’t familiar with the online brand.
For Ella, having her products in supermarkets is a great way to reach many, many more people. They may find out about her huge online brand through these products — or not at all. Either way, getting new fans of your brand through content or your products is a win!
2. Ella stayed true to her brand voice and vision
Another key theme in many of the It Started with Content case studies, Ella never compromised on her brand voice.
From the very beginning, Ella wanted to bring her own “sparkle” to her content. This is her secret sauce. It’s what makes her brand stand out from all others, and the one thing all content creators need to take away from this…
Nobody is better at creating your content than you are!
Ella created the content she wanted to see, but she also kept in mind that her competition didn’t have her motivations, her backstory, and her sparkle.
Keeping in touch with this was key to growing her audience, as they could continue to get the authentic Ella across all platforms, and even as the brand grew.
3. The content strategy was slow and steady
Deliciously Ella was no overnight success. But nobody expected it to be.
Each decision to expand or diversify content was carefully considered. All the while, Ella consistently created recipes and shared them with her audience.
Over the years, Ella’s delivered these recipes in many ways, from her blog, to a YouTube channel, and now the app, but she’s never stopped creating.
It’s also worth pointing out that Ella started her blog in 2012 — so this has been a very long-term strategy!
However, it’s clear that it’s paid off. By taking her opportunities at the right time, always sticking to her values, and never rushing her content strategy, Deliciously Ella has kept its audience hungry for more.
I hope that story has given you plenty of food for thought for what you can do with your own content!