Monday, March 28, 2011

“About Us”: Kikkoman Corporation Gets a C Minus

Kikkoman Corporation, best known for soy sauce, is also the world’s leading wholesaler of Oriental food. The present company, founded in 1917, developed from a group of family-owned Japanese businesses that were producing soy sauce as early as 1603. The main About Us page is here.


Products/Services: D

We like the illustration of early soy-sauce production, but the blank space on Kikkoman’s main About Us page could be used to entice us into other pages on the site. For example, the headings under Corporate Profile could be accompanied by a brief description and an image: “Message from the Chairman. Yuzaburo Mogi, Chairman and CEO, talks about his goals and his vision for the company’s future.”

We’d also like to see a statement of the company’s products, since most English-speaking readers associate Kikkoman’s only with soy sauce. The information that Kikkoman is the world’s leading wholesaler of Oriental food is buried halfway through the Global Vision page. Though heavy with corporate-speak, this page also reveals that Kikkoman has goals it plans to implement by 2020, its 50th year in the U.S. market. We applaud the use of the anniversary as a benchmark.

Personality: D

The History page is among the worst we’ve examined in this series of About Us evaluations. The first entry is 1925, even though the roots of the company stretch back to 1603. The 38 entries include such events as mergers, acquisitions, and the establishment of production facilities, without any explanation of their significance. No illustrations relieve the text. Kikkoman has a long, proud tradition of producing and distributing quality products: the History page completely fails to convey that.

Kikkoman also misses a great opportunity by not including the story of the Kikkoman logo as part of its History page. The Corporate Brand page describes the logo in detail, explaining the choice of color and font for the word “Kikkoman”--but it refers only in passing to the “traditional hexagon.” Only in the third paragraph of the Overview page (the fifth item on the main About Us table of contents, hence a page hasty viewers will never reach) is it explained--without an illustration!--that the “traditional hexagon” is in fact a representation of a the shell of a tortoise (long-lived) with the symbol for “10,000” superimposed on it, together suggesting the longevity of the company. The story is colorful; it deserves a more vivid presentation.

Accessibility: C

Finding the right contact information on Kikkoman’s site requires several steps. The Directory page (listed as a subhead under Corporate Profile) shows a map of the world that highlights the names of continents where Kikkoman’s has a presence. Click on one and you reach another full-screen map that shows locations on that particular continent. But the locations aren’t clickable: you have to scroll down to see a printed list of contact information. (Curiously, it’s only on these pages that we learn that Kikkoman makes soy sauce at two U.S. locations—in Wisconsin and California.)

The Contact Us link at the upper right of every page on the Kikkoman site links to an online form, which means the sender won’t have a record of when he contacted Kikkoman, or where the message went. We understand the usefulness of these forms in reducing spam, but we appreciate it when a company tells us they’ll send a copy of our message, or at least offers us the option of having a copy sent.


For a company whose roots go back 400 years, the Kikkoman site is singularly lacking in history--which makes their corporate personality considerably less tasty than their soy sauce. More than most, a foreign company’s About Us page in English must be aimed at people who know little or nothing about the company’s products, traditions, and operating principles.

Does your Web site’s “About Us” section accurately convey your organization’s history and capabilities? Every two weeks we evaluate one example, grading it in three areas that are key to potential customers: Personality (Who are you?), Products/Services (What can you do for us?), and Accessibility (How can we reach you?). Contact us if you’d like to have your site evaluated—there’s no charge and no obligation.

Today’s example was chosen at random; has no ties to this company.