Protoleaf is a Japanese gardening soil brand. Home gardening is very popular in Japan; however, concerns about nuclear radiation from Fukushima had caused consumers to question soil safety – even in store-bought products. We wanted to let our stakeholders, including consumers and trade, recognize the surprising quality and safety of the product.
What if the soil was so safe, you could actually eat it? To showcase our soil quality and safety, we opened “The Soil Restaurant” with a Michelin 3-star chef who created a full course meal using Protoleaf Soil as the main ingredient. The restaurant was open to the public and charged $100 per person.
Customers and Media ate it up: Media flocked to the The Soil Restaurant, resulting in massive coverage not only in Japan but in nearly 20 countries throughout the world as well, including features on CNN, CBS and BBC. With zero media investment, and only using the soil itself, we clearly demonstrated the product safety to the world. The total free exposure was valued at approximately US$8,900,000, and, as a result, consumers felt safe to buy soil again as sales surged to 130% versus the previous year. This meant people could once again return to their gardens and producing their own food. Whether for hobby or self-sufficiency, consumers now think of their soil differently, as a more integral part of food production – and something that can even be eaten.
Describe the brief from the client:
In order to recover the brand’s credibility, remove concerns about product safety and encourage consumers to buy soil again, we wanted to let our stakeholders, including consumers and trade, recognize the surprising quality and safety of the product. However, since the disaster, Protoleaf’s business had stagnated. Further, the scientific study that proved the product’s safety was costly, leaving very little budget for advertising. We had to save the brand and product from the crisis, with next to nothing.
Customers and Media ate it up: Within one week, 3 TV stations, 1 newspaper and 58 news websites reported on The Soil Restaurant. It became popular nationally, filling Twitter and Facebook with comments. A TV program interviewed the VP of Protoleaf, and the company’s passion for soil safety soil could be deeply understood by consumers. The media continued to visit The Soil Restaurant, creating massive coverage in Japan and nearly 20 countries throughout the world, including features on CNN, CBS, BBC and the Discovery Channel. This simple idea racked up approximately US$8,900,000 in total exposure with zero media investment. Using only the soil itself, we definitively proved the safety of our product, and of Japanese soil, to the world. As a result, consumers felt safe to buy soil again as sales surged to 130% versus the previous year. People could return to gardening and producing their own food.
On January 17, 2013, the restaurant was open to the public and charged $100 per person. Before opening, we sent a news release to 20 media, including gardening magazines, gourmet magazines, national newspapers and web news sites, by mail. We enclosed corporate message card with “soil ice cream” image and a full course soil menu in the mailing. The impactful image on the card and the menu list stirred up journalistic curiosity and motivated them come to the restaurant. After that, all we needed to do was ensure the restaurant visitors were treated to a high quality ‘soil’ dinner.
Since 2011, Fukushima nuclear power plant’s disaster caused by earthquake and tsunami, Japanese people have become deeply concerned about soil safety, even in store-bought products. Protoleaf is a Japanese gardening soil brand, and the credibility of their brand had been shaken. To make a breakthrough in the situation, they asked a technical institution to examine their soil’s safety. They definitively proved the safety and decided to re-launch their soil as “safe and high quality 100% organic soil.”
What if the soil was so safe, you could actually eat it? To convincingly showcase our soil quality and safety, we planned to offer everyone an experience of eating soil. We opened “The Soil Restaurant” with a Michelin 3-star chef who created a full course meal using Protoleaf Soil as the main ingredient. Our strategy was to change news about soil into news about a restaurant. People just love to talk about restaurants. We believed this disruptive approach – based on a high quality full-course meal prepared by a well-credentialed chef – would create media and consumer attention to drive buzz and transmit our message without the need for media investment.