Jerusalem: A great holiday gift idea and content marketing inspiration

jeruzalemFor Dutch, please click here.

I am a sucker for stories. And I loooovvve food. I couldn’t possible tell you which one of those two I like best! You can imagine that stories about food are one of my favorites. Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a domestic goddess” is definitely one of my favorite books, not just cook books. The funny thing is that this book was translated in Dutch as “How to be a divine house wife” – that’s something completely altoghether, but that is a topic for another blog. The original English version, full of baking, sugar and butter stains has a favorite spot in my book cabinet. But after years without competition, we finally have a contender. One that also serves as marketing literature.

Jerusalem: from cook book to online community

The third cook book of restaurateur Ottolenghi and his chef Tamimi is called ‘Jerusalem’ en had been first published in October 2012 in Great Britain. Since then, it has been published in the United States and in four other languages, including Dutch from february 2013 on.  It’s a worldwide massive bestseller: over 40.000 copies were sold in the US and UK only. A special accomplishment for the cooking duo without a Michelin-starred restaurant, nor being a tv cooking celebrity. Even more special is its popularity online and on social media. There is a whole community of Jerusalem fans out there on the internet sharing their photo’s of their preparing the recipes from the book. How’s that for user-generated content and free pr?

Have a look at the user-generated content on Jerusalem via #tastingjrslm on:

I think it’s incredibly awesome! All these fans engaged with Ottolenghi’s and Tamimi’s content, inspired to publish their own engaging content about the book. Now that’s return on influence for ya!

It got me thinking. How Jerusalem managed to be such an outrageous success in times where recipes can be found free online and shared through Pinterest and the likes? How did they pull it off to still sell over 40.000 copies?

Of course, Jerusalem is a amazingly gorgeous designed book, with a linen cover with a gold geometric design, referring to both Muslim art and Jewish-Orthodox iconography. With mouthwatering photos of the recipes and ingredients. With travel book style photos of the city and its markets.

Main ingredients for content marketing success

The difference between Jerusalem and the other cook books that are flooding the book stores, is in two specific elements that can explain its success:

1. Mysterious ingredients

Foto van Emily Orpin via Flickr onder Creative Commons License
Foto van Emily Orpin via Flickr onder Creative Commons License

Together with Albert Heijn’s food magazine Allerhande and seasoning kits from Knorr World Cuisine, the Dutch explored almost every cuisine there is: Chinese and Indonesian since the fifties, exploring Italian pasta and Japanese sushi, and effortlessly alternating our stamppot with Thai curry. And because of the Maroccan and Turkish immigrants: not too unfamiliar with Middle Eastern cuisine either. Nevertheless, Jerusalem brings something new to the table.

Ottolenghi’s en Tamimi’s recipes are relentlessly without Western alternatives for exotic ingredients, making it a Pandora’s Box full of mystery:  za’atar, sumac, cardamom pods, freekeh and pomegranate molasse are just one of the few of the mysterious names on the long ingredient lists. Chick peas, egg plants and eggs are given the spot light.

Foto door Michael Barker Studios, onder Creative Commons license.
Foto door Michael Barker Studios, onder Creative Commons license.

The photos in the book entice the mind: you don’t know all the stuff that’s in the pictures, you don’t know what they taste like. There is only one way finding out: diving right in the Maroccan and Turkish supermarkets, getting your hands dirty in a chaotic exploration in your own kitchen. And cook.

2. A story that touches the heart

Ottolenghi’s and Tamimi’s partnership is a special story on its own: a Jewish and Arab immigrant, starting a restaurant in London. Together. Jerusalem is a collection of recipes of their childhood and their heritage: from the Jewish West where Ottolenghi is from, from the Arabic East where Tamimi had been born.

That is why Jerusalem isn’t a Jewish cook book, nor a Arabic cook book, but a mix of all the cultures that the metropole contains. Ottolenghi en Tamimi share stories about the city and its history, but mostly about the food: who taught them the recipe, who they prepared the recipe for, on which occasion they eat this recipe, what feelings and memories they have eating this food. An example:

Figs are abundant in Jerusalem and many trees, bearing the most delactable fruit, actually belong to no one, so anybody can help themselves. Summer months are always tinted with the smell of wild herbs and ripe figs. The mother of Sami’s childhood neighbour and friend,  Jabbar, used her roof to dry the glut of figs (and tomatoes) in the hot summer sun, spending hours cleaning and sorting them meticulously. Poor Um Jabbar – Sami and her son never wasted time and used to sneak up to her roof regurlaly stealing her figs at their peak and causing havoc. This wasn’t enough for Jabbar, though. The boy had such a sweet tooth that he always carried an old match box full of sugar cubes, just in case. Unfortunately, this habit had clear ramifications, evident in his “charming” smile.

– Introduction to recipe for Roasted sweat potatoes and fresh figs, p. 26 Jerusalem.

Right on the money! Food is emotion. As a content marketer, it should be your objective to create engaging content, triggering an emotion with your audience. My eyes started watering when reading Jerusalem’s stories, and that is not because I was slicing onions! Ottolenghi and Tamimi created a phantasy version of Jerusalem,  in which different religions are braught together by the shared love of food and the same ingredients they use for their own cuisines. Who doesn’t want to be a part of that?

Marketing literature and holiday gift tip

So. Jerusalem isn’t just a cook book. It’s business literature for content marketeers, too. Please refer to this post when your boss give your declaration of expenses a stern look! Other great use for this book: a perfect holiday gift for your business relations in marketing. And obviously a great gift in Sinterklaas’ bag of presents here in the Netherlands, or under the Christmas tree any where else. In any case, it’s a gift that I haven’t had the pleasure yet receiving (hint hint, wink wink) .

In which unusual place do you find cases about engaging content?

xoxo – Irene

This topic had been found through a link by  Poet Farmer, based on an article by NY Times. You can also read a Dutch version of this blog post.

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