Breaking the trends: Ikigai

Breaking the trends: Ikigai

As lifestyle fads come thick and fast, a title on an emerging trend can be both a blessing and a curse for a comms department. With the market saturated heavily by hygge, lagom and lykke, the team from Cornerstone knew they needed to be strategic and bold to break through with Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Healthy Life. Their aim: to displace hygge as the prevailing trend and replace it with a new philosophy from Japan.

This, as senior publicity manager Laura Brooke and press officer Jasmine Rowe knew, “required a delicate balancing act, meticulous research and the placing of carefully timed trend pieces in advance of publication, while holding back material from the book so we could make a splash on publication.”

Knowing that the world of lifestyle trends rests neatly on the evangelists who promote it, they also set out to “build [the] authors into spokespeople and the thought leaders in the world of ikigai”.

Translated loosely as “your reason for getting up in the morning”, ikigai is still a nascent concept in the UK, so the team met with journalists early in 2017 to rave about the trend, and to link it to a general movement towards interest in Japanese culture, pointing to the BBC Japanese season and fashion pieces about kimonos.

The team originally sold serial rights to Sunday Times Style, and wanted to place two trend pieces ahead of publication without giving away embargoed content. However, when they pitched to a different section of the Times, it opted instead to interview another ikigai author (publishing on the same day), which put their serial in jeopardy. Instead they placed pre-publication trend features in Stylist and the Guardian and, when the Times serial fell through, managed to place an extract in Grazia at short notice.

Then the marketing kicked in. The marketing team invested in Google search advertising to capture anyone exploring the concept, and scoured subsequent articles for new terms or keywords that they could add to their own search advertising. For their
efforts, they generated more than 4,000 clicks to Amazon by using in excess of 500 search terms.

For the creative, head of marketing Celeste Ward-Best said: “We wanted to help our audience visualise ikigai, so we created a suite of lifestyle content, including micro-documentaries with a beekeeper and floral designer, describing how they discovered their ikigai and what it means to them. The videos are aspirational but gentle, inspired by the recent ‘slow living’ trend.” The videos ran across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.

On the publicity side, Brooke and Rowe ran these videos in ads across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram and targeted three different audience groups: young trend-followers; wellness and mindfulness fans, and an older audience who are interested in slowing down and enjoying the finer things in life. They then re-targeted those audiences across the different platforms with static advertising.

They also arranged interviews with the authors - Francesc Mirailles and Hector Garcia - in key magazines, drilling down into the ethos of ikigai. With around 20 pieces of coverage made up of interviews and written pieces from the authors, they cultivated their standing as the go-to experts for ikigai and are still receiving interview requests.

Asked what they had learned from their trend-building exercise, Brooke said: “Don’t restrict yourself by selling serial. You need to get word out early, but don’t give too much content away, so that you have plenty of press to run when the books are in the shops!”