Stirring Up Buzz: Marketing Cookbooks
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
Cookbooks are a well-established cornerstone of any good bookshop and over the years we have seen the genre go through many different adaptations. From Delia Smith teaching us how to boil an egg, to Jamie Oliver promising quick and easy meals in under thirty minutes, there is something for everyone. This only seems to be truer with each passing year, as this area of publishing responds to rising trends with more diverse collections of specialised cookbooks. You can now find a dedicated space on the shelves just for vegetarian cookbooks as more meat-lovers integrate vegetarian meals into their diet, as well as international sections encouraging people to branch out into foreign cuisines and maybe even a shelf for the weight watchers full of recipes that are lean, clean and super green.
As the genre has expanded over the years, so have the marketing techniques. Now that established restaurant chefs are competing with celebrity cookbooks and enterprising foodie bloggers, the challenge is really on for marketing teams to create unique campaigns that speak to their target audience and take up their own space within the genre.
Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love
A culinary favourite, Yotam Ottolenghi released his tenth cookbook this year and is no stranger to the power of a good marketing campaign. Published by Ebury in September, Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love is co-authored by Ottolenghi and Noor Murad, a recipe developer on the OTK team based in Holloway.
The eye-catching orange and pink jacket of the book was a key marketing choice in itself, according to Noor’s Instagram. It is “flexi bound with flexi recipes” to reflect the ethos of the test kitchen, encouraging home cooks to make the recipes their own with “swaps and substitutions, tweaks and suggestions.” The aesthetic of the book also lends itself to making a striking commercial display, with retailers such as Daunt Books taking advantage of OTK’s window-worthy cover. Utilising a giant 3D billboard in Borough Market, one of the oldest food markets in London, is a great example of attention to detail by the Ottolenghi marketing team.
The driving force of the marketing around Shelf Love has been the interactivity of the campaign, primarily achieved through events such as the OTK Supper Club hosted by the Ottolenghi restaurant in Spitalfields, featuring food from the book cooked by Noor and Yotam themselves. The team also collaborated with The Dishpatch, a company producing finish-at-home restaurant meal kits from the country’s best chefs, to create a mezze box using recipes from the book. Yotam is very active on his social media channels, encouraging his followers to get into cooking by featuring step-by-step recipe guides on his Instagram stories highlight 'Simply OTK,' and through his YouTube series 'OTK: What’s for Dinner?' which features recipes from the new book and exciting glimpses behind the scenes of the Test Kitchen.
It feels like Ottolenghi Test Kitchen: Shelf Love is on everyone’s radar at the moment, and that is testament to the inspired, innovative and intimate marketing throughout the campaign.
Stanley Tucci’s Taste
Offering “a reflection on the intersection of food and life,” Stanley Tucci’s memoir has topped bestseller charts and engaged foodies and film buffs alike. Published on 7 October 2021, Taste continues to be a non-fiction centrepiece in bookshop windows.
This is not Tucci’s first cookbook. The Tucci Cookbook and The Tucci Table: Cooking with Family and Friends have already showcased Tucci’s love of Italian food, collecting delicious recipes with the theme of family at the heart of each publication. Taste continues to reflect upon his Italian American roots, yet subverts genre expectations. Mixing together memoir and the cookbook form, Tucci’s memoir is framed by food, rather than his experiences in the film industry as you might expect. Not only that, but it also follows Tucci’s devastating cancer revelation. Having a tumour on his tongue removed, Tucci recalled how this affected his experiences with tasting food, weaving this difficult period in his life into the narrative.
Taste’s campaign notably refuses to rely upon Stanley Tucci’s celebrity status to sell copies. Whilst Tucci is a household name as an actor, the memoir has received positive reviews from chefs including Nigella Lawson, Heston Blumenthal and Jay Rayner. Tucci was also interviewed on both sides of the Atlantic, with news outlets keen to find out his favourite dishes, inspiring potential readers. With journalist Katie Couric, Tucci got “very personal,” combining a reading of the memoir and sharing recipes during an emotional zoom interview. The campaign also benefited from Tucci’s recent viral success on TikTok. As the social media platform soared in popularity during the first lockdown, Tucci took to TikTok to share cocktail recipes, exciting users worldwide who were missing happy hour. This campaign distinguishes Taste from the typical ‘tell-all’ memoir we’ve come to expect from Hollywood stars. Tucci’s love of food and the emotions behind his story powers a successful marketing campaign.