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Public Relations Archive

The 300 Year Old Female Entrepreneur Story You’ve Never Heard

“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.

How LinkedIn, YouTube & Others Could Finally Cure Stupidity Online


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 >>

How To Position A Product Like Don Draper


The marketing team for Viagra doesn’t use email newsletters. You can probably guess why – but I have often thought for some time that anyone who can figure out a good marketing strategy for a product like that could probably promote anything. If that person existed in real life, he or she would probably resemble the character of Don Draper…Read More >>

How To Write An Open Letter Like Jeff Bezos


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 >>

Brand Reputation And Why All PR Actually Is Good PR (Unless You’re Already Famous)


Lots of people who don’t work in public relations will tell you that “all PR is good PR.” In other words, if people are talking about you – it doesn’t matter what they are saying. Then there are those who are in the profession who will usually tell you the exact opposite … that PR can be positive or negative…Read More >>

Culpa Marketing: How To Win By Publicizing Screw Ups


There is nothing more powerful than a genuine heartfelt apology. At least, that’s what JCPenney is hoping based on a new ad the brand just released today featuring an apology to customers for recent changes and a promise to start listening more: The ad is a marked departure from the Apple-style “we’ll tell you what you really want” strategy employed…Read More >>

Iron Chef, Truffles and Surviving Clueless Criticism


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 >>

The Script Of Improv – What Is (And Isn’t) Real Time Marketing


A theater show happens in real time. It’s live on stage and the actors are actually saying the lines as you watch them. And if it’s well done, it can seem spontaneous and real and unscripted. But of course, it is scripted. They are memorizing lines and performing them. Improv, on the other hand is completely UNscripted. It is based…Read More >>

The Alignment Gap, Concierge Marketing And The Future Of Agencies


Summary: The story of why I decided to start the world’s first true “Concierge Marketing” service for large and mid-size brands. It all started because I knew the one thing I didn’t want to do. About three months ago I left my role at one of the biggest marketing agencies in the world and the only thing I knew for…Read More >>

Best and Worst of Super Bowl Marketing Strategy: 2013 Edition

Best and Worst of Super Bowl Marketing Strategy: 2013 Edition

Every year there seems to be another Admeter/Adbowl/Adrank type of contest that lets anyone register and vote for their favourite ads. Sure it’s nice when everyone has an opinion, but as any designer will tell you – opinions are like butts … everyone has one, but usually they stink. If you’re reading this, though, you probably care more about marketing…Read More >>