written by: Lin Pei Shan, Bay

Sriracha hot sauce is a 37 year old American brand who made its name through the story of a humble Vietnamese refugees turns entrepreneur and a thankful brand attitude to American inclusion.

David Tran, a Vietnamese refugee setting in America, started the Sriracha business by selling it himself at Chinatown, LA and gradually built awareness by word of mouth. His background not only represents the spirit that hardwork always pays off. His success is also an American dream come true, which help establish a powerful relationship with consumers. Till today, David Tran still claimed, “My American dream was never to become a billionaire. We started this because we like fresh, spicy chili sauce.” What an admirable tale! People buy Sriracha for its hot taste as well as its spirits.

Tabasco, the failed predator
The invasion of Sriracha by Tabasco Sriracha in 2014 is just like a David and Goliath showdown.

58 million versus 6 million annual revenue;
600 thousand versus 24 thousand of daily productivity;
140 years versus 37 years of history .

In 2014, the factory of Huy Fong Foods, the manufacturer of Sriracha, was entangled in a lawsuit that they were forced to reduce its production. Seeing the “Rooster” wounded, McIlhenny Company, the manufacturer of Tabasco, came in and intended to reap Sriracha’s market share by launching “Tabasco Sriracha”.
Comments and predictions are flooding all over the media and are undesirably lopsided to the defeat of Sriracha. Tabasco would post a serious threat for several reasons: First, Huy Fong Foods owned no patent of both Sriracha’s name and ingredients. Second, “Tabasco Sriracha” is perceived to be closer to the American taste. And obviously, Tabasco would much more experienced and resourceful in marketing and promotion.

Sriracha, the survived prey
Surprisingly, a few months as gone by and there is not much noise in the market about the hot sauce battle. Tabasco launched its own Sriracha without any major advertising campaign as if it was an unspoken secret. The story ends with Huy Fong survived the Tabasco invasion.

Brand story as the key to survive
Huy Fong, the holding company of Sriracha, have never done any large scale advertising and promotion campaigns. According to Tran, there is no promotion department in his company. All he got is an authentic brand story, unbeatable by nature.

When Sriracha’s brand story has been turned into a legend, taking advantage of the fame was no longer a business invasion but a moral turpitude . A big brand like Tabasco would never risk itself at moral condemnation. That was why “Tabasco Sriracha” couldn’t go high-profile. Eventually, the “Rooster” pulled through the tough 2014 and kept crowing.

Great story makes the world revolve the other way around
Everyone loves a good story. If advertising is fishnets, an impressive brand story is a magnet. The legendary yet humble Sriracha story has its attraction as long as a magnet and degradation as slow as a real magnet. It builds brand asset internally and creates brand cult externally.

By googling “Sriracha”, hundreds of commendation articles and social media content posts would pop up while most of them are not “manufactured news” by the company per se. Writers, marketers, columnist, or influencers promote Sriracha voluntarily because they are willing/attracted to do so. Instead of using fishnets to capture consumers, attract them with a magnet could well be an efficient alternative. Huy Fong proved that owning a legendarily strong brand story might work just as effective and successful in brand building.

References:
Huy fong foods, inc. revenue and financial data. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.hoovers.com/company-information/cs/revenue-financial.huy_fong_foods_inc.19f858824082232f.html

Kevin Alexander. (2016). Who killed sriracha? Retrieved from https://www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/the-rise-and-fall-of-sriracha

McIlhenny company revenue and financial data. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.hoovers.com/company-information/cs/revenue-financial.mcilhenny_company.bf425857613d0d19.html

Paul Friederichsen. Building A cult status brand without the basics. Retrieved from https://www.brandingstrategyinsider.com/2016/07/building-cult-status-brand-without-basics.html#.WcJFNtOg9Aa

Tabasco quietly releases its own sriracha hot sauce. (2014). Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/food-drink/2014/05/27/tabasco-quietly-releases-its-own-sriracha-hot-sauce.html