“Started by a woman, in a time when women didn’t start companies.”
These are the powerful first words that introduce the story behind a brand you probably forgot you have in your kitchen right now. Kikkoman is the #1 best selling soy sauce brand worldwide, in a category filled with syrupy competitors that can rarely lay claim to any sort of cultural heritage – much less one than is more than 300 years old.
In an effort to tell that story, a year ago Kikkoman commissioned Academy Award™ Nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker to produce a short documentary film about the heritage and family creed that has inspired Kikkoman since its beginning. The documentary tells the powerful story of Shige Maki, wife of a slain samurai warrior who escaped Osaka to the city of Edo (today’s Tokyo) in the early 1600s.
Settling in the village of Noda with her son, they learned the craft of brewing shoyu – or soy sauce. As author Ronald E. Yates wrote in The Kikkoman Chronicles: A Global Company with a Japanese Soul, “behind every bottle of Kikkoman, there’s a Kikko-woman. The remarkable, resourceful, Shige Maki.”
Today the heritage of the company is told through these powerful videos and the modern day translation of their longtime family creed: Make Haste Slowly. In a world that doesn’t seem to do anything slowly anymore, Kikkoman’s approach stands out. Even their marketing strategy is slow and steady. The videos were produced more than a year ago, and still have barely a quarter million views – a low number considering the ubiquity of the brand.
Yet that understated approach may be part of the appeal. Like many others, I discovered the videos through serendipity and now am writing about them thanks to the power of their storytelling. This is the opposite of a Super Bowl ad. We live in a media landscape where big budgets don’t necessarily lead to capturing mass attention, thanks to “advertising blindness.” Fighting back, many marketers have turned to content marketing as a potential solution to capture the attention of overloaded consumers (a topic I have written about the challenges of before).
The theory behind content marketing is simple: provide solutions or utility through content, and the customers will pay attention because you are providing something valuable instead of promotional. Yet the other thing we know about consumer behaviour is that emotional responses to stories can drive powerful behaviours and beliefs. Solving a problem sometimes isn’t as memorable as sharing a powerful story.
And that ultimately may be the most important lesson that Kikkoman’s story and video can teach us. In a world filled with brands desperate to solve problems and brands dedicated to using shock and awe to capture eyeballs … perhaps the only way to really stand out is to quietly tell a great story.
Someone asked me tonight what my “story” was – and I always wish for a better answer to that question. After all, I spend a good part of my life telling stories and helping companies to tell them as well. Tomorrow I will be spending an entire day at an event called the Future of Storytelling. Every night I read…Read More >>
The greatest collection of human stupidity ever amassed sits on the Internet … and you probably encounter it every day. When you go online today, there is some great content – and a deluge of bad, useless or otherwise idiotic content. It is common knowledge that content creation online is exploding and that much of it is not very good….Read More >>
The open letter is an art form that not enough companies have learned to use effectively. This morning after the announcement that The Washington Post would be taken over by Amazon – one of the first commentary pieces to emerge was an open letter from Jeff Bezos to Amazon employees (published on The Washington Post website, of course). In it,…Read More >>
There’s a few things they don’t tell you about being on The Shark Tank. One of them is that every pitch on the popular reality business TV show starts with a silent 10 second staring contest. I spent an afternoon talking to a former (winning) contestant from the show, and one of the the insights he shared was that the…Read More >>
Choosing not to preserve a 1000 year old Viking ship doesn’t really surprise anyone in Norway. For Americans who are used to their own country putting mere 75 year old documents behind bullet proof glass, though, nothing could be more confusing than the longstanding debate about the fate of the Oseberg ship – a remarkably well preserved 1200 year old…Read More >>
Today was a big day for the Netherlands. Back in January, the Dutch Queen Beatrix decided to abdicate her throne to pave the way for the next generation of loyalty to take over. Today was her final day as queen, as her son Willem-Alexander became the new King and youngest monarch in Europe. As it turns out, Dutch royalty have…Read More >>
The “Ballbarrow” was never really a product destined for greatness. Replacing a wheel in a traditional wheelbarrow with a ball hardly qualifies as a groundbreaking technological innovation. But it does solve a problem. Great inventions usually do. And when James Dyson first created and produced his Ballbarrow, it was a hit with gardeners seeking an alternative that wouldn’t leave wheel…Read More >>
Last week no one cared what my Twitter name was – and I was thrilled about that. At dozens of social media centric events, the Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or Pinterest question has become the de facto proof of purchase. People write their Twitter names on their nametags. They try desperately to distill their own social credibility into a…Read More >>
Imagine you’re a chef. You have spent the last twenty years learning your craft. Studying ingredients and cooking techniques. Working for sometimes maladjusted and dictatorial restaurant owners or lead chefs. And now you’ve made it. You have your own kitchen that you lead – and you’re recognized. Your food has made it onto the plates of celebrities and maybe even…Read More >>