Internationally known speakers Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield knew the power of a good story long before Chicken Soup for the Soul was published. Each had built their speaking careers by telling inspirational, motivational and uplifting stories that their audiences could use to discover, experience and retain key concepts and approaches. After years of continuous audience requests that they put their stories into book form, Hansen & Canfield finally agreed. Rather than focusing only on their stories, they decided to reach out to others and seek contributions of powerful tales of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. After rounding up the 101 most inspirational submissions, they were left with an untitled book they both knew had the potential to make quite an impact.
As they searched for a winning title, Jack & Mark each agreed to meditate on the subject for one hour a day. Jack visualized the image of his grandmother’s Chicken Soup for the Soul and remembered how she told him it would cure anything. The book would have the same healing powers as that soup, but not for the body—for the soul. Thus, the now famous title was born…Chicken Soup for the Soul.
Chicken Soup for the Soul was released on June 28, 1993, and became a holiday favorite by the end of December. What drove initial interest was not media attention or celebrity endorsement, but rather word-of-mouth promotion from ordinary people around the country who bought the book and loved it. Many would return to the bookstore to buy five or ten copies for friends and family. Thanks to that groundswell of popularity, by September of 1994, Chicken Soup for the Soul was on every major bestseller list in the U.S. and Canada. Although the media may not have led the charge, they soon caught on. Chicken Soup for the Soul received coverage from just about every major media outlet in the country, including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “The Today Show,” “Larry King Live” and thousands of others. The series quickly became a pop culture phenomenon, receiving mentions on television programs like “Friends,” “The Sopranos,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” plus several movies.
It did not take long for the series to start racking up industry awards and recognition. In 1995, Chicken Soup for the Soul won the prestigious ABBY Award (American Booksellers’ Book of the Year), followed in 1996 by the American Family Institute’s “Non-Fiction Literary Award.” In 1998, Chicken Soup for the Soul for the Kid’s Soul was voted “Favorite Book of the Year” for Nickelodeon’s Kid’s Choice Awards. That same year Chicken Soup for the Soul set a record for having seven books on the New York Times bestseller list at one time and launched its licensing program, which allows the life improvement brand to reach people in a variety of formats.
Over the next ten years:
- total retail sales of Chicken Soup for the Soul branded merchandise reached over $2 billion;
- the world’s leading consumer brands looked to Chicken Soup for the Soul for co-branding opportunities, including American Idol®, Coke®, NASCAR®, Marriott®, Campbell’s®, Arby’s®, Golf Digest® and others; and
- top media brands like King Features (stories in 77 newspapers—daily), Woman’s World (stories to 1.6 million subscribers—weekly) and others developed extensive cross-promotion relationships with Chicken Soup for the Soul.
In 2008, in recognition of the fact that the digital age would enable Chicken Soup for the Soul to impact lives on a far greater scale, Jack and Mark decided that they needed to add multimedia expertise to their company. In April of 2008 they sold a significant stake in Chicken Soup for the Soul to a group led by William J. Rouhana Jr. and Robert Jacobs. Bill Rouhana, a well-known Internet and media executive, is now CEO of the Company.
The Company has moved aggressively to add world-class partners to the world of Chicken Soup for the Soul. New Chicken Soup for the Soul titles are now distributed through Simon & Schuster Inc., giving the series access to one of the industry’s largest sales forces. In addition, they began an aggressive but focused program to license the right to use the Chicken Soup for the Soul trademark to high-quality partners.
Today, more than 15 years after it began, Chicken Soup for the Soul means more to people than just books. According to Harris Polls, 88.7 percent of the public not only recognizes the Chicken Soup for the Soul brand, but knows what it is. With more than 112 million books sold to date in the US and Canada alone, almost 200 titles in print and translations into more than 40 languages, Chicken Soup for the Soul is one of the world’s best-known phrases. Chicken Soup for the Soul reaches people well beyond the bookstore, with CD & DVD collections, company-sponsored samplers, greeting cards, children’s entertainment products, pet food, flowers and many other products in line with Chicken Soup for the Soul’s purpose. Chicken Soup for the Soul is currently implementing a plan to expand into all media by working with TV networks on several shows and developing a major Internet presence dedicated to life improvement, emotional support and inspiration.