One of the more intriguing aspects of Canada (like in the US) was how meals at Chinese restaurants often end with a fortune cookie being served to us. These little flour, sugar and vanilla flavoured confectioneries come hidden with a prophetic message like “Eating lots of ice cream makes you fat” or something like that.
What’s unusual about fortune cookies are that…
a) They are NOT a part of traditional Chinese culture or heritage in China;
b) They may be invented by a Japanese despite being served at Chinese restaurants in America;
c) They are often the subject of numerous parodies and jokes, like the ones you can find here.
Perhaps, the REAL wisdom in fortune cookies is how it has triggered a massive cultural phenomenon conceived in the kitchens of Asian restaurants in North America. With 3 billion fortune cookies consumed annually in the US alone, it is HUGE business.
Incidentally, with more than 40,000 Chinese restaurants in the States, they have overtaken McDonalds, Burger King and KFC outlets combined (Of course, most of the food served there isn’t quite my idea of fine Chinese cuisine, but I digress).
I suppose the success story of fortune cookie is one of novelty marketing. Learn to play up the quirkyness factor and use the inherent humour in your product/service to your advantage. Having that cutesy element helped too. And of course, being bite-sized doesn’t hurt anybody.
Being inventive is also key here. Fortune cookies are probably as authentically Chinese as chop suey, another Asian American FOB invention, but who really cares. After all, it takes genius to spin your own exotic tale laced with Eastern mysticism into an everyday item, styled with your own set of rituals and customs.
Oh, in case you’re wondering, the rather innocuous message that I got from my cookie was this: