Melting Pot Rather Than A Stir-Fry Wok

In the world of public relations consulting it is common for us to talk of integrated communications. Very often the term is simply understood as using a mix of mediums to push out a brand message to create connect with your audiences. However, I would like to believe that there is more to it.

My experience of working in the food sector has really helped me understand how integrated communication is way more than using different mediums to push out messages. Yes it is food – hence, I chose the title – Melting pot rather than a stir-fry wok. In a stir-fry wok you put together different ingredients, use your sauces and flavors, and vigorously stir to prepare your dish. The individual ingredients are visible, identifiable and taste-able. But a melting pot is different. You put different ingredients together, let it simmer and integrate; the end result is not a mixed product, but an integrated product.

I have intentionally used specific words in the above paragraph to establish, what I believe, is the real meaning of integrated communication. Integrated communication is about bringing together different expertise to evolve a point of view about a brand and communicate the same in a synergistic and aligned manner to your audiences. It is not a matter of stirring vigorously, but of patiently allowing ideas to simmer.

As I said it is all about my learning from food. We work with the Federation of Maple Syrup Producers of Quebec (FPAQ), Canada. In the last nine months, I had the opportunity to travel to Quebec twice to work on global strategies for the promotion of maple syrup with the FPAQ teams. It is exciting to share how we have integrated art and science into evolving the maple story.

The art of maple needs no introduction in Quebec. Generations after generations of residents have harvested maple sap and undertaken the simple step of boiling the sap to produce hundred percent pure maple syrup – no chemicals, no preservatives, no artificial treatment. Jacques Cartier, the French explorer who discovered Canada first observed the North American maple trees while exploring the St Lawrence river.

There is no product in the world, apart from maple syrup, which is produced by pure sap of a tree. The harvest season itself, when temperatures in Quebec is twenty to thirty degrees below freezing is itself a time of joy and celebration where towns and sugar shacks come alive with the bells of festivities.

My visits to Quebec helped me see how FPAQ stands for the story of maple as intrinsic to the character, nature and wellbeing of Canada.

The science of maple is robust and credible. This flows along the lines of both the science of sustainability and that of bio-chemistry.

Maple trees are known to have a very positive impact on the reduction of greenhouse gas. Coupled with this, the very techniques of maple harvests makes sure that the trees and forests themselves are sustainable, because in every harvest season the trees are tapped in different areas to preserve the trees and their long term life.

There is a strong scientific community that has developed in Canada, USA, Japan and China over the years that is studying the unique composition of maple syrup. Studies have shown that pure maple syrup contains calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, manganese, phytohormones and polyphenols. Current laboratory tests show that phytohormones may help better metabolism and polyphenols have great anti-inflammation effects in the body. More recent studies by Dr Navindra Seeram from the University of Rhode Island (USA) indicate that phenolic-enriched extracts of maple syrup from Canada has neuroprotective effects that may aid in the reversal of Alzheimer’s disease. Science and research takes time; sometimes spread over years. Hence, patience is the key and we need the process to “simmer”.

Last, not the least, the greatest quality that maple syrup brings that is beyond art and science – the taste. Once asked to describe how pure maple syrup from Canada tastes, one of my colleagues answered, “it is like a party in my mouth!”. I remain confused about how this product explodes a range of tastes from sugar to honey to coffee to chocolate to…

As public relations professionals, these are important cues to understand how credible art and science have been brought together to create a story about an authentic product. These are facts that consumers need to hear and absorb and be convinced about the genuineness of this unique product which is a healthy alternative to white cane sugar.

As professionals, we have a great opportunity here to work closely with key opinion leaders in the food, beverage and nutrition space to leverage the full potential of maple syrup for consumers. It is a unique “sweetener” that perfectly complements both sweet and savory dishes. My visits in Quebec helped me interact with some of the leading chefs and nutritionists from Americas who are working on connecting the goodness of maple to general consumers.

The Maple Night festival that happens during the harvest time in Quebec brings together people from all walks of life to cherish the goodness of maple. This year in February-2016, the Maple Night themed on the multi-faceted dimensions of maple brought together an international audience of experts including celebrity chef, Vicky Ratnani, well known nutritionist & dietician, Sheela Krishnaswamy, and senior editor, Vinita Nangia, from India, to explore, experience and appreciate maple, its characteristics and benefits.

We have had great spokespersons across the world – especially in Canada, the US, Japan and the UK – who have endorsed the benefits of this humble syrup. Benefits and messages have been amplified in these geographies leveraging TV shows, social media and credible endorsements from nutritionists, scientists and sportspeople. This has seen a huge rise in popularity of maple syrup in these geographies. In India, we do have a huge problem with lifestyle illnesses like diabetes and obesity. Maple syrup is just a healthy alternative to white cane sugar, which when used in moderation can bring in the goodness of nutrients.

Back to the melting pot of communication… it is interesting to see how integrated communication in the space of maple syrup is not just about using multiple mediums in pushing out messages. It is rather about creating the authenticity itself. The combination of art, science and great taste in a melting pot has helped in crafting messages that has integration at its core. The story is a beautiful dovetail that is authentic, credible and palatable. The same has been pushed out by spokespeople to target audiences through various mediums to create behavior change in consumers’ purchasing habits, which has ultimately had a positive impact on sales.

As we end this reading, I have three clear takeaways:

  1. Effective message crafting is a blend between art and science. A melting pot approach is important to look at facts holistically.
  2. Credibility and authenticity is key. There is too much clutter in the market. Hence, only what is credible and authentic will sell.
  3. Replace your ordinary sugar with the healthy maple syrup… feel the difference!

For more, please go to