retail news in context, analysis with attitude

So last week I was in San Francisco, sitting at an outdoor table at the Cafe Zoetrope, sipping on a really good chardonnay and dipping bread in olive oil with crushed red pepper. And I noticed that across Kearny Street there is a restaurant called the House of Nanking, with a line out front. Impressive, considering that the restaurant was nestled in between a Thai Oriental Massage parlor and the Grassland Cocktail Lounge, where, the tattered green awning said, “good friends and girls meet.”

When my waiter passed by, I said, “That must be a really good restaurant, huh?”

The waiter chuckled and shook his head. “Nope. It actually isn’t very good at all. But they have really good advertising. But they don’t tell you that not only is the food lousy, but they rush you because they like to turn over tables fast.” And then he recommended another Chinese restaurant a couple of blocks away, saying that the food was much, much better.

I watched the line and thought to myself, that’s an interesting lesson. Two, actually.

One, advertising does matter. Sell a compelling message, and you can attract a crowd, no matter what part of town you’re in.

But the second lesson is even more important: You have to deliver on the promise, because if you don’t, people will talk.

I cannot imagine any circumstances under which I’m going to the House of Nanking. No way. Because word of mouth fights in a different weight class than advertising.

The fact is that around the corner on Jackson Street, there is another Chinese restaurant called Hunan Home. Being in the middle of Chinatown, it is just one of hundreds, but I know this one because 15 or more years ago, Murray Raphel took me and a bunch of other folks there, raving about the coconut shrimp. The shrimp was everything he said it was, and I often have returned...because that restaurant delivered on the promise and had word of mouth - from an advocate - working on its behalf.

The questions are:

What kind of marketer are you? What kind of message is being spread on your behalf? And are you living up to the promise?

That’s my Monday morning eye-opener.

- Kevin Coupe
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