Friday, August 13, 2004

Marketing Thoughts 

I know this will frustrate at least one person reading this blog and offering advice on it, but honestly, not everything that is good for the Cracked Cauldron can be reduced to the cold and firm logic of numbers. So, our marketing strategy will be a bit "fuzzier" than might perhaps be wanted. We think this "fuzziness" is what will actually improve customer perception of us. Advertising has assumed a bizarre place in our society, and the consumer demand for regulating it places it squarely amidst 4 other regulatory needs that kill people. That says a lot about people's perceptions of advertising.

We're considering a "softer" approach, one that builds trust and loyalty. Oh, sure, we'll go with the marketing that will bring quick results, but we are planning our longer term strategy to build repeat business and customer loyalty.

One way to do that is to give away "ownership" of the business. Before you get all upset over this, consider: if you were allowed to make an important decision about a business, would you feel a bit proprietary towards that business, and recommend it to your friends, and be more likely to frequent it yourself?

Manager and I have been discussing a (working name, but it seems "sticky" - people are already referring to it by this name) "guinea pig hour", a special day and time each month where we prepare a new item to add to the menu in multiple variations. All the customers in the store get free samples of them along with an evaluation sheet, and they can tell us "too much cinnamon", "not enough vanilla flavoring", "needs more yeast", "too hard", "too soft" or whatever. We'll fiddle with the recipe until it's just right according to the majority of customers, and place it on the menu for the following month - placing a photo of them all (those who want their picture taken, that is) with the product they chose on the menu board.

Several people we've surveyed have asked if we'll sell T-shirts that say "Official Cracked Cauldron Guinea Pig" on them during that time. An artist friend has offered to draw a cracked cauldron with a guinea pig inside it eating bakery goods. Here in Oklahoma, maybe the casualness of this would work?

We've been considering something a bit more varied - maybe even seasonal - a group of traditional halloween charcaters around a cracked cauldron with the food item under consideration elevating out of the cauldron and the words: "I conjured (food item) for the Cracked Cauldron", or a cracked cauldron Easter basket with the food item in it and the words "I found (food) for the Cracked Cauldron.", or a medieval style food taster with dozens of discarded food items around his feet and placing just one into a cracked cauldron saying "I chose the best one for the Cracked Cauldron."

We have to fiddle and experiment with new recipes anyway - why not let the customer be part of the decision making process?

We think giving the customer some obvious and identifiable control over the Cracked Cauldron will make them happier to visit the Cracked Cauldron, will encourage them to bring friends to eat the food they helped put on the menu, and make us as much a part of their lives as they are of ours.

And then, the answer to "What do you want to do tonight?" could very well be "It's Guinea Pig Night at the Cracked Cauldron, I have to make an executive decision on their new recipe."

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