Inspiring Innovation: The Ideal Husband – how to win a woman’s heart with a bowl of custard

April 23, 2019

My new book Inspiring Innovation is really more of a story book than a textbook. It brings together “75 marketing tales to help you to find your business’s next big thing”.

Now having finished the manuscript, I have had the chance to think what the book teaches about the process of innovation and perhaps the most striking thing is that there is no single right way to go about it. There are many different and sometimes surprising sources for new brands and marketing ideas. They include positive concepts like love, travel and curiosity but also include the less glamourous pain, disappointment, shame and embarrassment.

Over the next few weeks I’ll being sharing one or two of these stories as an appetiser for the book and I thought I should start with an innovation inspired by love … read on

The Ideal Husband – how to win a woman’s heart with a bowl of custard

Next Valentine’s Day, what are you planning for your special one? A card at least, I hope, but maybe a bunch of flowers, a bottle of champagne or a romantic dinner for two? But how would your partner react if you gave them a bowl of custard? Yes, custard – that sweet, yellow dessert sauce we Brits pour over our rhubarb crumble and apple pies.

Well, if you were Mrs Elizabeth Bird you would be delighted.

Now the exact date in 1837 on which Alfred Bird presented a bowl of custard to his wife is not known,

but whenever it was it clearly won him some serious brownie points.

Elizabeth had persistent digestive problems and suffered severe reactions to eggs and yeast-based products.

But she was a lover of custard, and despite the consequences she simply couldn’t resist the stuff.

Alfred had qualified as a Fellow of the Chemists Society and set up a shop in Birmingham’s Bell Street, selling household medicines and toiletries. Business was good, but Alfred wasn’t satisfied, and every night after the shop closed he indulged his passion for experimental chemistry.

The task he set himself was to find a way to help his wife enjoy the foods she loved.

He began a quest for an egg-free custard and finally, after many late nights, he developed a recipe for a new custard powder based on corn flour.

His wife was delighted, and soon too were some friends of the Birds’, when they were introduced to the confection by mistake.

The story goes that it was ‘accidentally’ fed to some of Elizabeth and Alfred’s guests at a dinner party. Seeing their reaction, Alfred realized that perhaps there was more to his invention than just a happier wife. Bird’s Powdered Custard was born, and lives on successfully to this day.

A few years later Alfred again proved what an ideal husband he was, when in 1843 he came up with a yeast substitute. It was originally called ‘Bird’s Fermenting

Powder’ but was quickly renamed ‘Baking Powder’. It not only helped people like Elizabeth, who had yeast allergies, but was soon widely used to help people bake lighter bread, cakes and pastries.

It was, and is still, a success.

SPARKPOINT: Solving someone’s problem (loved one or not) is a well-used path to innovation.

About the Author

Giles Lury would describe himself as a VW Beetle driving, Lego Watch wearing, Disney loving, Chelsea supporting father of five who also happens to be Director of a leading strategic brand consultancy, The Value Engineers. Giles is the author of six previous books, including two volumes of marketing stories – The Prisoner and the Penguin and How Coca-Cola Took Over the World (both published by LID Publishing).

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