Special Guest: Danny Taing; Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Bokksu.
On this episode of the Impact Exchange, we were joined by Danny Taing, Founder & Chief Executive Officer at Bokksu, to discuss how Bokksu is preserving cultures and giving back to charitable causes that are important to their business.
Danny shared insights into Bokksu's approach to social impact, their commitment to their values, and how they’ve found success in creating cause partnerships with their business.
Listen to the podcast to learn more about Danny’s perspective on the following:
- How Bokksu leads with their values to support family businesses.
- How Bokksu uses technology to amplify their social impact initiatives.
- Advice for businesses looking to implement a social impact strategy.
Listen to The Impact Exchange Podcast:
How Bokksu is Bringing Japanese Culture to America while Supporting Family Businesses
Bokksu's story began with Danny Taing's personal passion for Japanese language, food, and culture. After living in Japan for four years and immersing himself in the country's rich culinary heritage, Danny returned to the United States, missing the authentic Japanese snacks he enjoyed during his time abroad. He quickly noticed a lack of understanding among Americans surrounding Japanese culture, and created Bokksu as a way to bridge this gap.
“I saw that there was this huge gap and lack of understanding that most Americans and Westerners had about Japan. Like, I would talk to friends and they would ask me, ‘Do Japanese people eat sushi every day?’ And so I started Bokksu as a way to bridge cultures through this delicious, authentic food.”
Danny explains how Japan places a strong emphasis on maintaining generational legacies in family businesses, which is what inspired him to create a business around supporting these small, local family businesses.
Molly Trerotola: I've visited your website and your value system is so clear in your messaging and in your visuals and branding—how has that been communicated in your social impact efforts? Tell me a little bit about your initiative so far.
Danny Taing: Although it's embedded in our DNA as a company, social impact beyond a sustainable supply chain is something we're kind of getting into. We always wanna make sure that the supply chain we set up is sustainable and fair for everybody along the way. Like we show the names and faces of the businesses that we're working with. And so that just kind of shows everybody that these are real people.
Bokksu's mission is to sustain these heritage companies by introducing their products to the world, while sharing the rich cultural heritage behind each snack. With a commitment to creating cultural sustainability, Bokksu sources their snacks from local, artisanal makers across Japan, which helps to support family-owned businesses thrive and grow.
Consumer Trends in Social Impact
In recent years, the movement of conscious commerce has grown exponentially as more consumers choose to prioritize their values when making purchase decisions. 72% of Americans say they feel it is more important than ever that the companies they buy from reflect their values, and 86% say they’re likely to purchase from purpose-driven companies.
While product and price are still important factors that consumers consider when making purchases, their values and beliefs play a significant role as well. This means that for businesses to compete in today’s purpose-driven economy, they need to identify opportunities to prioritize impact in an authentic way.
Molly Trerotola: What trends in the consumer space do you think led you to wanting to integrate social impact into your external marketing and the customer journey? Why was it important to you to communicate that message externally?
Danny Taing: So what's funny about that is even though it was in our DNA in the very beginning, we didn't communicate it as strongly because we thought maybe customers didn't really care that much. But then as time went on, especially because that's been something we've been emphasizing for the seven years of running Bokksu now, I think there is a trend where people are buying smaller more now.
Danny explains that they’ve found their customers care about supporting small, family-owned businesses. Wanting to learn more about their customer base, Bokksu conducted a persona analysis to better understand their different types of customers.
From this analysis, Bokksu found that across the board, most of their customers indicated that an important factor for them in staying subscribed to Bokksu was because they wanted to support the family businesses in Japan that Bokksu works with.
“People are realizing that Coca-Cola is not your friend, like these big CPG companies are not your friend. And so people are buying small more often too. They're realizing that family businesses are going out of business in a variety of ways.”
Using Technology and Marketing to Heighten Awareness Around Bokksu’s Social Impact Initiatives
Since today’s socially conscious consumers are being more mindful of which brands they choose to support, Incorporating information about social impact initiatives in marketing campaigns is crucial for businesses. This transparency not only allows customers to understand the company's ethos and values, but it also fosters a deeper connection with the brand and strengthens brand loyalty.
To communicate their social impact initiatives, Bokksu includes information about the family businesses they work with throughout their website. Featuring multimedia content like videos and a docu-series that showcases the stories behind the Japanese-based businesses, Bokksu enables their customers to learn more about the impact that the business is creating.
Molly Trerotola: And the story you have is so strong. There's this cohesion between the founding story, the product story, and now the give back story. You talked about bringing that message more front and center with your customers—what are some ways you've done that from a technology standpoint and from a marketing perspective?
Danny Taing: Yeah, so from a technology standpoint it's things like trying to make it as easy as possible for them to know it exists.
Danny explains how they discovered ShoppingGives’ donation technology through Yotpo, an eCommerce retention marketing platform that drives repeat sales with connected solutions for reviews, SMS, email, loyalty, and subscriptions.
“And we now have this ability in the loyalty page or customer portal, for our customers to use their Bokksu points through the loyalty program to then donate to a cause that we've selected.”
By integrating their social impact initiatives into their customer loyalty program, Bokksu is able to give their customers the opportunity to align their purchases with a charitable cause by having the opportunity to redeem their loyalty points for charitable donations.
Finding the Right Cause Partnerships
One of the biggest challenges for brands when it comes to social impact is finding a cause partnership that makes sense for their business. 63% of people buy or advocate for brands based on beliefs and values, which means that finding a cause that aligns with their values and resonates with their target audience is key.
Molly Trerotola: What challenges have you faced in rolling out these initiatives and partnerships with nonprofits or ways to collect stories? Are there any roadblocks along the way?
Danny Taing: I mean a pretty big one right away that we're still working through is, who are the right partners for us? We have a pretty unique mission and purpose and so I didn't want to do something like buy a pair of shoes, donate a pair of shoes, right?
Danny explains that they wanted to find a cause partnership that was both cohesive with their brand and mission, and that would also positively resonate with their customers. Rather than embracing “trendy” cause initiatives that may not necessarily align with Bokksu’s values, they took a more thoughtful approach to their cause partnerships.
With a mission to collaborate with organizations that shared their commitment to cultural sustainability and support for family businesses in Japan, Bokksu partnered with Japan Society Inc., a non-profit organization that exists to connect Japanese arts, culture, language, business, and society with audiences in the United States.
For businesses with a core focus like Bokksu, finding a cause partnership that amplifies that mission can make all the difference in forming a successful partnership. When consumers, employees, and stakeholders feel that a company’s social impact initiatives are in alignment with their brand values, they are more likely to trust that the company is being genuine in their efforts.
Danny’s Advice for Companies Looking to Enable Social Impact
Enabling a society impact strategy for a business for the first time can be a daunting task, but one that is well worth it. 89% of executives say companies that lead with purpose have a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace. Additionally, high-purpose brands will double their market value more than four times faster than low-purpose brands. With positive effects on both society and a company’s bottom line, engaging in social impact and forming cause partnerships is a win-win strategy for brands, consumers, and nonprofit organizations.
Molly Trerotola: A lot of companies find a cohesive message hard to land on, and the task of launching social impact initiatives is very daunting because they have a hard time landing on that cohesive social impact message. If you could give a company that's looking to invest in social impact for the first time, some best practices or a tip, what would it be?
Danny Taing: The advice I would actually give to new companies is you don't have to rush it. Like you don't have to get it perfect from the beginning either of what your impact will be. Grow your business, do the purpose and mission of what you want, and that can evolve. Our purpose has evolved over time in a lot of different ways. It wasn't just supporting family business. Now, it's trying to spread culture more broadly throughout the world and things like that. And so take your time.
As a business evolves over time, so too may its social responsibility initiatives. To find a strategy that best fits a brand's needs, they should be open to exploring new ways that they can involve their customers in their social impact initiatives and build stronger relationships with like-minded nonprofit organizations.
Bokksu’s commitment to leading with their values demonstrates the power of combining a passion with purpose. Their commitment to preserving cultural heritage sets an inspiring example for businesses looking to make a meaningful impact on society while creating meaningful experiences for their customers.
We hope you enjoy this episode of The Impact Exchange, until next time...stay healthy, stay mindful, and create impact.