Strategy & Planning Archive
“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.
Sometimes you can’t fix a bad website. It probably took me about five years of leading digital campaigns for brands in a variety of industries before I finally accepted that sad fact. The problem is, when you know what to fix it is easy to think that no one will object to you doing it. Unfortunately, fixing a bad website…Read More >>
Today I launched ePatient 2015 – 15 Surprising Trends Changing Healthcare, my newest book focused on the future of healthcare. It might seem like an odd project for me to launch – being a marketing guy. This is the unexpected story of why and how I did it (along with my co-author Fard Johnmar), and why the book might be…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 >>
Last month Nokia quietly missed the opportunity of the decade. It wasn’t easy to spot. Amidst all the news about the mega-implications of the Microsoft-Nokia merger this week, some critics are adding up the failures of two doomed brands while others see it as proof of Android’s projected growth. Just about every article looks at the deal through the lens…Read More >>
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 >>
Today two of the biggest communications holding companies, Omnicom and Publicis, announced they will be merging to form the world’s largest advertising company. For anyone familiar with the common in-fighting among agencies for limited client budgets, one of the immediate concerns will be the challenges that these new found partners in this “merger of equals” will face in the coming…Read More >>
Great advertising appeals to emotions. In the world of marketing pizza, this usually leads to some new “innovation” in pizza making that might induce cravings and cause people at home to pick up the phone and place an order for delivery. The formula is so time tested, that the latest series of ads from Pizza Hut follows the cliche perfectly…Read More >>
In the 1987 cult hit film Mannequin, a chronically unemployed artist landed a job decorating a department storefront window after saving the owner’s life. His partner is a mannequin who comes life at night – and together they create storefront window displays that get people stopping in the streets. It’s a tale of fantasy, but what if there was a…Read More >>
In just a few weeks, it will be time once again for one of my favourite marketing events of the year. No, it’s not the party-filled serendipity fest of SXSW, or the Las Vegas geek-pride gathering at CES. The event I’m talking about is all business … and that’s why it’s one of my top events all year. On June…Read More >>