How Butterball's Turkey Talk-Line for nervous Thanksgiving cooks became such a huge phenomenon that it's gotten shout-outs on late-night shows and 'The West Wing'

Facebook/ButterballButterball’s Turkey Talk-Line walks users through how to cook a turkey.
  • ButterballTurkey is one of the best-known brands of turkey.
  • Butterball’s popularity has been in large part because of its Turkey Talk-Line, a hotline where customers can call and ask their turkey-related questions.
  • To hear the full story about the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, subscribe for free to Business Insider’s podcast, “Household Name.”

Butterball is one of the best-known turkey brands in the United States.

In part, its popularity is due to its being one of the only recognisable name brands for turkey.

But it has also gained attention thanks to its perennially popular Turkey Talk-Line – part-customer service, part-counseling center for any and all turkey questions.

The hotline is open for business from early November through Christmas Eve, with as many as 50 operators standing by to help answer basic turkey questions, provide emotional support, and help solve turkey-related problems.

The Turkey Talk-Line launched in 1981 and has grown from 11,000 calls in its first year to 100,000 last season. Users can now also text the hotline or talk to a recorded version of a call-center employee using Amazon‘s Alexa.

To work for the Turkey Talk-Line, you first have to go through a training program called Butterball University. Recruits have to roast their own turkey seven different ways, study the juices in the pan, and learn all the ins-and-outs of cooking a turkey before they’re ready to take calls.

Some of the calls the talkers take are, well, interesting.

Sue Smith, a co-director at the hotline who has been working there for almost 20 years, explained to Business Insider’s Dan Bobkoff that she got one call where a husband and wife were in a disagreement because he was in charge of turning the oven on, but the oven kept mysteriously shutting off. The wife called the hotline upset, and as they were talking it out, the couple realised it was their dog who had been sneaking in to shut the oven off.

“So that was a very memorable call. I liked that one,” Smith said to Bobkoff during the latest episode of Business Insider’s podcast “Household Name.”

The hotline has become more popular as traditions like Friendsgiving have taken off and more young people are buying and cooking turkeys. More men have been calling in the past few years, too.

But one of the biggest reasons it has become so popular is its frequent mentions in pop culture. Butterball runs traditional advertising campaigns, but the Turkey Talk-Line has become a staple for late-night comics and other TV shows. Butterball’s Talk-Line has been featured on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” and even on an episode of “The West Wing.”

To learn more about the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, subscribe to Business Insider’s podcast, “Household Name.”

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