Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Advertising, Fear & Common Sense, Pt. I

I've been thinking about this blog and our forthcoming web site (don't ask me when we'll be online...sometime fairly soon, in the next month or so), more specifically what topics are okay to address and what topics might be questionable, given my position as a business owner in the community. One doesn't wish to offend or be adversarial, and yet when questions are asked and issues become topics of conversation some sort of reply seems appropriate.

One of the recurring topics of the past couple weeks has been an advertisement that one of the local coffee spots has placed in the local newspaper. The ad is small and simple in design; the shop name and hours are displayed in the lower half and the sole promotional text occupies the upper half of the ad space. It reads "OUR COFFEE IS BETTER!" That's it...a small ad that has been run close to every other day in the newspaper.

That we are the object of their comparison is fairly transparent, as Stumpjack Coffee Co is the new coffee establishment in town and we know that we are making an impact on previous coffee drinking preferences of a fair number of folks in town (yes, I know that sounds a bit obtuse, but I'm trying to be congenial and soft handed...work with me here, will ya!). The response to their ad has been rather interesting, and brings up an equally interesting and important issue for any business to consider, that being the question of defining one's identity and how to best present that identity to the public. In other words, how do you market yourself.

We have chosen to try to create an identity that (hopefully) successfully integrates our ideas on high quality coffees, service, environment (sensory), community (local & global), etc., and we have also chosen, for the most part, to let our identity speak for itself or, more accurately, let our customers/friends speak for us. Other than a couple of initial announcements we have avoided media advertising and have instead opted for word-of-mouth advertising from the folks who stop in each day. The results have been very positive and have encouraged us to feel like we're at least headed in the right direction.

The approach that we have chosen to take may not be the most practical or effective approach for every business, and it may not even be the one we maintain as we continue to move forward. It is, however, an approach that I believe is the most "honest" in terms of evaluating the results of one's efforts. If business grows as a result of people returning with friends or from the word-of-mouth of someone else, rather than because an advertisement enticed them, then it's safe to assume that you're doing something correctly. In other words, if the actual experience of the visit or product is resulting in both repeat and new sales, then that is a more honest indicator that you may be on the right path than what traditional media marketing can provide. But I don't want to get too far off track and into a discussion on marketing philosophy.

The "Our Coffee Is Better!" print advertisement is a direct response to a competitor who is making an impact on their business. Before engaging in any kind of marketing you need to ask yourself some practical questions: "will this be effective?; will it enhance or reinforce our image and identity?; will the return be worth the dollars spent?" In the case of this particular ad I might also have asked myself "will there be any negative fallout from making a direct comparison to our competitor?" From our perspective this is where things have been interesting...and I'll explore that aspect of it next posting.

1 comment:

tina kugler said...

yeah, when we opened our business, you would NOT BELIEVE what...you know what, i should probably tell you this story in person sometime. not in writing. long story short (too late), why are some people so paranoid (and, um, hateful) that they think the SOLE REASON you are opening a business is to put them, personally, out of business? (never mind that the two businesses are marketed to ENTIRELY different people, and hey, isn't some VARIETY nice?) also, i do hang on to grudges forever and i am fueled by spite. (and coffee. but mostly spite.)