Friday, December 22, 2006

Advertising, Fear & Common Sense, Pt. II

Ok, last post on this topic we left off with some questions you might want to ask yourself when considering running an ad. In this particular case the "Our Coffee Is Better!" ad I spoke of last post is currently being run by a coffee place here in town as a result of the impact we, Stumpjack Coffee, are having on retail coffee sales in town. Let's review the questions. "Will this be effective? Will it enhance or reinforce our image and identity? Will the return be worth the dollars spent? Will there be any negative fallout from making a direct comparison to our competitor?"

The most interesting thing about this coffee cafe's ad, from our perspective, is the way in which our friends/customers have responded to it. People come in to the Stumpjack and they bring it up; "Have you seen their ad?" and inevitably they follow their question with a statement of displeasure and even anger at the ad. I'd say that this scenario has repeated itself at least a couple dozen times over the last two or three weeks. And the level of emotion that people have voiced, running from mild irritation to actual anger, toward the other coffee shop has been very interesting as well. The most common response has been something along the lines of "Better than what!? Better than what it used to be? Better than [insert popular freeze-dried instant coffee or other politely unmentionable liquid]?" People feel as though they themselves have been attacked by the ad. It's quite a nice feeling to have such loyal customers that are willing to defend this place from what they perceive as an unwarranted attack. I'm telling you, it truly makes us feel absolutely wonderful and unbelievably honored and grateful. So many of our customers have become genuine friends, folks we just like to hang with, and that has been a real bonus.

I can't answer the first three questions, about whether or not the ad has been effective in increasing their sales. But I can say that there definitely appears to have been a fair amount of negative fall-out as a result of it. I should clarify, however, that the Stumpjack has garnered a good amount of positive response from the ad. What the ad has unwittingly done is focused attention onto Stumpjack Coffee. As the object of their comparison we, of course, are an integral component of the ad campaign. At least a couple of people have come in and said something akin to "We had to see what they were talking about, who really does have the better coffee." Considering the attention and response we've received it's actually had a better result for the Stumpjack in terms of buzz and sales than an ad we might have run ourselves. How weirdly cool is that?!

I want to be very clear that we never felt angered or upset about the "Our Coffee Is Better!" ad or had any feelings of negativity towards the other coffee shop. I personally like the folks who run that cafe, and in the case of this ad my understanding is that they were not responsible for running it (the coffee shop is part of a larger retail space and I understand that the retail space management created and ran the ad). Our philosphy has always been that there are plenty of pieces of pie to go around for everyone and, more importantly, that the more options people have in spending their money the better everyone's business will be in the long run. Sure, you might lose the occasional individual sale but if more people are coming into your area as a result of more shopping choices you will inevitably reap far more than you lose (if you're doing things the way you should). Unfortunately, that seems to be a business philosophy that is in the minority in these parts. Rather, there seems to be an attitude of territoriality and fear of competition. That's not good for business - anyone's business - and it's not good for the community. Our job as business people in a community should be to lift up, encourage and support new businesses, even if they are in our particular field, while at the same time trying to outdo our competitors in quality of product and service in a friendly and honest manner. Competition not only can be a win-win situation, if engaged in wisely and cooperatively it surely will be.

Well, it's been an interesting topic of conversation and I hope we take a few pearls of wisdom for our own notebook from what appears to have been an ill-conceived marketing plan.

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