The common Yangzhou fried rice is a staple in many Chinese restaurants and small eateries, and yet, within the seemingly simple dish embodies some of the greatest strengths of Chinese wok cooking. What has Yangzhou fried rice got to do with marketing?
Yangzhou fried rice, is not really a dish from Yangzhou, mainland China, but was created by Qing Dynasty's Yi Bingshou (1754 to 1815 AD), who was a magistrate of Yangzhou at one time.
What is Yangzhou fried rice, for the uninitiated? It is a dish with cooked rice, char siew (barbecued pork), cooked or fried shrimp, finely chopped spring onions, and most importantly, egg yolk. A good plate of Yangzhou fried rice must have distinct rice grains that are not clumped together, and each grain should have a fine coating of egg yolk, just sufficiently so, and the dish must not taste soggy or oily. There is an incredible fragrance of the mixture of all these common ingredients together, that makes this dish memorable when done right.
Many of us have tried our hands at frying a wok of Yangzhou fried rice, but the master chefs would let you know that it is one of the seemingly most mundane dishes that demand real decades of solid cooking experience. It is not a dish you can just whip up without real experience.
In marketing, let us remember that it is also like a good dish of Yangzhou fried rice. It is a discipline best done over and over again, field-tested ad infinitum in the heat and blasts of the battlefields of the marketplace. Marketing is not a field for the novice to command, and it requires humility, practice, constant learning, and most of us, a consolidation of core strengths of various components that make the sum so much greater than the mere parts.
Each of the ingredients in Yangzhou fried rice are simple, and yet, each requires some careful preparation. The shrimp has to be properly cleaned and de-shelled and cooked just sufficiently. The char siew is another science in itself, requiring marination, cooking and frying, and dicing to small bits. The spring onions has to be finely chopped so that the fragrance can be blossomed during wok frying, without overpowering the taste of the whole dish. And the rice is not something to be cavalier either, sometimes requiring the storage of cooked rice overnight before using it.
In marketing, the parts can be public relations, social media, advertising, direct marketing, events, mobile marketing, internal communication, crisis prevention, market research, and so on. There are many components, and none of them should overpower the others, and they must have a broad umbrella strategy (akin to the wok and frying temperature and skills) that brings all these components elegantly together to create a marketing machinery far greater than each of the marketing tactics/channels.
The next time you sit down with a good plate of Yangzhou fried rice, remember that we marketers are just like the master chefs who needed decades of experience behind them, slaving in the kitchen for long hours of toil, to arrive at creating the perfect Yangzhou fried rice, a memorable taste that is at once so deceivingly simple, and yet so emotively compelling that it moves us.
Make magic happen, but remember behind every magic is a painfully built set of core strengths from tears and sweat of hard work.