Every Spatula Tells a Story: Williams-Sonoma’s Open Kitchen Launch

February 27, 2014by Darryl FeldmanEmployee EngagementStorytellingVideo


In our previous post on storytelling, we were introduced to the three essentials of great storytelling: characters, plot and challenge. We were also introduced to a smarmy duck who walks into a bar… but more on him later. For now, let’s take our ingredients a bit further and checkout a great example of real-world brand storytelling from the premier specialty retailer of home furnishings and gourmet cookware, Williams-Sonoma.


Last month, Williams-Sonoma introduced Open Kitchen, a collection of affordable and versatile cooking essentials for the everyday cook. This is a new position for the pricey home retailer, so it was vital they cooked up and hit the right tone for Open Kitchen’s story, both externally and internally. Let’s see how they did it, shall we?

  • Media: Online, Williams-Sonoma blends multiple media to share the story, the hub being the Open Kitchen page on its website. From there, they weave social media (Facebook, Google+ and Twitter with a snappy #MyOpenKitchen hashtag), photo sharing (InstagramPinterest), blogging and the power of YouTube video to spread the word, encourage sharing and drive traffic both online and to its stores. After all, a cook’s gotta’ get this stuff, right?
  • Visual appeal: One of the most immediate and striking elements of the Open Kitchen launch, is the use of evocative, and rather handsome photography across all online media. Let’s face it: the food, the people, the setting, the food… sorry for the repeat, I’m getting hungry… and the tools used to make it just look good.
  • Location: From Open Kitchen’s kitchen to yours, right? We’re introduced to Outerlands, a cozy gathering spot in San Francisco’s Outer Sunset neighborhood. But, it’s not about the Bay. The real location is the gloriously laden table. Feast your eyes on that! The reader can “see themselves” sitting at the table, at the farmer’s market. The plan is to periodically feature new restaurants, which is a great way to keep the content fresh so readers keep coming back.
  • Characters: Every story needs a good cast of characters (personally, I think Boba Fett is the best). Open Kitchen’s story is no different. Here, we meet the smartly dressed, tattooed and smiling Outerlands team.  From the the owners to the chefs to the wine director. Plus, we get personal vignettes of each one (like chef Brett Cooper) which increases their likability. Inevitably, these conjure up the “Hey, they’re just like me!” or “I can do that!” sentiments, which invests us in the story.
  • Action: Readers can almost see the pictures move, and the video certainly bring it all to life. The laughs, the smells, the clinking glasses, the filtered rays of sun through the window, and the full bellies. Williams-Sonoma takes this a step further by sharing Outerlands’ recipes with its readers, and also encouraging them to submit pics of their own culinary celebrations on Twitter using the hashtag #MyOpenKitchen.
  • Moment: Open Kitchen and its collective media are all about the act of celebrating and sharing food with friends. That’s always appropriate.


This is all great online, but what about extending the story to retail? Looks like the table is set. Williams-Sonoma has tasteful Open Kitchen displays, and their team members are well-trained to share the story of the new collection. While we don’t have direct insight into their employee engagement program, we can be confident Williams-Sonoma has comprehensively trained their retail ambassadors with activities like:

  • Corporate and field level Open Kitchen events to kick off the launch
  • Smartly designed print collateral, training manuals and signage to introduce the new collection
  • How-to role playing exercises withfellow team members to practice exemplary customer service, using printed scripts and video
  • Leveraging Enterprise Social Networks (ESNs) like Yammer, their corporate intranet and emails to announce the line
  • Using a mobile application to encourage their employees to share their own #MyOpenKitchen celebrations or to host a recipe submission contest, then hosting local retail tasting events for the winners


Williams-Sonoma’s Open Kitchen is a great example of rich, comprehensive culinary storytelling. They do a wonderful job of telling a kaleidoscopic and warm tale online via their website, social media, and blogging. Then they amplify it via their retail ambassadors in-store. Ultimately, they create a holistic connection with their readers.

Since we’re in sharing mode, what are some of your favorite brand’s examples of great storytelling?

So it looks like Dave’s duck has quacked his way into a bar… I hope they have Open Kitchen’s Winged Corkscrew handy to open that bottle of Syrah he just ordered!


Darryl Feldman