Category: Brands Worthy of a Weekend

BWOW: Wow Bao

BWOW: Wow Bao

WowBaoIf you’re wondering who owns the eyebrow-lift-inducing Facebook vanity “hotasianbuns”, look no further than Chicago’s own Wow Bao.  Wow Bao is a concept of Lettuce Entertain You, but it has a social media voice and plan of action all its own.   Geoff Alexander, Wow Bao’s Managing Partner joined me on a panel at WOMMA’s School of WOM and shared enough of those elements to make me want to learn more.  The personality and choices that Wow Bao has made qualify it as a Brand Worthy of a Weekend (BWOW) – a brand for whom there is a passionate set of fans that would give up a weekend with their families to come “immerse” themselves in the brand – learn more, meet the people behind the brand, and want to have a hand in crafting the brand’s future.  So what’s Wow Bao’s recipe for a talkable, weekend-worthy brand?

Product Offering w/ Story, Ritual, & Explanation – Chicago is a food town, but steamed Asian Buns aren’t the most common offering by far.  The product itself provides the opportunity for Word of Mouth to be exchanged – in location or on their website in the “the Way of the Bao” video.

Sauce-Up Your Brand Voice – @BaoMouth – Their brand voice on Twitter is the disembodied Bao Mouth.  The spicy Bao Mouth’s location and identity remain a closely guarded trade secret (even when I pressed Mr. Alexander on stage).  It is interesting to note that this is usually counter to what we think of as a best practice in terms of building relationships through transparency, but here it truly adds to the Bao mystique.  What we do know is that he/she is not only listening for mentions of Wow Bao, but ready to comment on other seemingly irrelevant, but fun tweets.  My favorite today:

I’m gonna walk in through the out door all day today RT @CarolBlymire: Prince turns 52. How will YOU be celebrating his birthday?”

Surprise & Delight with Innovation – Despite (or maybe because?) Wow Bao is in Chicago and only rocking a handful of locations, they are innovating their marketing at light speed.  They know that young, digital, early adopters are their bun eaters, so they have experimented by being one of the first restaurants in Chicago to offer Foursquare deals (in fall 09), they have an iPhone app, remote ordering and shipping anywhere in the US, Facebook weekly “secret word” deals, Foursquare Mayor rituals that walk the walk in store (this talkability has to manifest IRL after all), and mobile single-use barcoded coupons with Mocapay.  Even if 75% of these fail, they’re worth remarking about and, while experimental, that probably justifies the ROI on its own.

What other brands are challenging their audiences by pushing their marketing bounds vs. being dragged into the future?  Or using the complexity of their product as a WOM advantage?

Resolution Inspiration from Maker’s Mark

Resolution Inspiration from Maker’s Mark

Last month, I met Bill Samuels, Jr. in the flesh. That name may not ring a bell for you, but for me and thousands of Maker’s Mark ambassadors, meeting the master distiller, current company president, and son of the founder of a truly beloved brand is a very big deal. Perhaps more importantly to me, this company’s philosophy and deep respect for their customers was one of the first to get me excited about the power of Word of Mouth Marketing when I heard Jackie Huba tell their ambassador story (check out her podcast interview with Bill Samuels, Jr here) almost 5 years ago.

Bill was in attendance at the December 16 WOM Supergenius conference in Chicago where I along with some other old WOMMA friends including Jake McKee, Spike Jones, and John Moore was speaking at the invitation of Andy Sernovitz and his team from Gaspedal.  While all the sessions were great, Bill’s was the only one where I broke out a pen and started trying to capture what was being said word for word.

What better way to kick off 2010 than remembering why we care about WOM in the first place from a brand that is most certainly worthy of a weekend (or a 6 year ambassadorship)?   Thus, enjoy the paraphrased quotes from Bill Samuels, Jr  – some of which originated with from his dad.  I hope they can inspire us all to a 2010 of meaningful marketing resolutions…

bill samuels jr<our target audience is…> Anyone with an above average interest in taste and taste distinctiveness that we would enjoy having home for dinner.

<how will we reach them?> We will not enter the airspace of anyone who has not invited us to enter it.

We will talk to the people who want to talk to us.

Wherever we travel, we blow the whistle at 5 and they all come running.

We send Ambassadors text emails from Bill, because your friends don’t send you Flash emails.

Surprise and delight is more powerful than a reward triggered by taking an action.

Every gift we send is a tool to help you introduce your friends to your brand, Maker’s Mark.

Thanks for the reminders, Bill.  And for the reminder to specify brands when ordering a bourbon & ginger.

Enthusiast vs Influencer Event Best Practices

Enthusiast vs Influencer Event Best Practices

For a few years at this point, I’ve written about Brands Worth of a Weekend – where the weekend in question is a one for enthusiasts to come together and bond with the people behind their passion brands.  Meanwhile, Influencer Events – where influentual bloggers/tweeters and the like are invited to spend a day or two having a brand experience – have exploded in frequency.  While each may be classified as events for content creators and there are some best practice similarities (make personal connections, send a thank you, be clear about where and how content can be tagged), I would argue that there are even more differences.

The below table is a consolidation of lessons shared in an internal discussion of 360 DI strategists across the network for best practices before during and after an event.

Enthusiast Events

Influencer Events

  • Co-Create the event agenda.  They already know a lot about the brand and will be able to offer a lot of instruction on what they want to see.
  • This is also an opportunity to build excitement – send something for them to wear to arrive or a special assignment.
  • Provide opportunities to experience the brand prior to the event so that they will get the most out of the time on the ground.
  • Also, ask them what would be helpful – many bloggers have had multiple of these experiences and can tell you what they do and don’t want.
  • You don’t need to “sell” this group on the brand, but the bar on what constitutes “exclusive” experiences or information will be very high as they already know so much.
  • The opportunity is for time for people to connect – enthusiasts to one another and to brand teams.
  • Give a thorough “background” (origin, invention or founding story) to level set on knowledge
  • Air out your agenda to allow lots of time for liveblogging & tweeting
  • Design photo ops or “moments” worthy of documenting.  Shoot video footage, photos, or audio as appropriate.
  • Provide ongoing ways to stay in touch with the people assembled (Facebook group, brand community, etc)
  • Channel your enthusiasts’ energy!  Provide suggestions for ways they can help you – product testing, house parties, store visits – see how they might want to help.
  • Follow up with edits of the media you created and any appropriate tagging instructions for media uploads
  • Keep this group at the top of your list for other outreach opportunities

An additional follow up consideration for all, especially for complex programs, is Social Influencer Relationship Management.

If you have some experience designing or participating in these brand events, please throw in your $.02.  I think it could benefit all parties to avoid the pitfalls in mistaking participants invited due to their audience and influence for people who are already passionate about everything your brand does.

The WOM It Is

The WOM It Is

bruceonpiano3I like to think of myself as Bruce Hornsby Superfan #1, but I know it to not be true (that would be Si Twining of  That being said, you can comfortably place me in the next tier of fandom down the line.  Through the years I have seen Bruce in many different type of configurations – solo, with an orchestra, with the Range, etc, but there is no party like seeing him with the Noisemakers.  This is why I happily schlepped to Red Bank, New Jersey to see the full band at the Count Basie Theater (site of my first live Steve Winwood at the tender age of 20) last week.  What struck me about the show was not just how musically remarkable it was, but how many best practices of word of mouth marketing the Noisemakers experience exemplifies.  Its part of the magic that makes folks like me come back show after show, year after year.  Here they are:

Co-Creation – 5 minutes after the theater doors opened, the stage was covered with cards, letters and notes with heartfelt requests of favorites, standards and covers for Bruce & the band.  He read some of the notes on stage and, while he jokingly responded to someone yelling an arcane request “we’ll play what we like”, he definitely made a point of letting the audience shape the show.  The fact that every show is different drives nerds like me to research setlists and hit multiple tourstops.

Transparency – There is no rockstar or even jazz virtuoso posturing.  Bruce chose to play the highly-requested Harbor Lights solo and explained that it was because the band hadn’t played it fully orchestrated in so long that they would be rusty.  He also apologized in advance for 1 tune that wasn’t good in sound check, but they needed to get used to playing it live (still sounded great).  And for the first time I’ve ever heard, he ended the show saying “I know times are tight and I really appreciate you all coming out”.

Surprises, Mashups, Inside Jokes – Bruce performed a live debut, played the dulcimer (which I had never seen him do), and pulled off a couple of song mashups that were headscratchers even for me.  The encore was technically 1 song – Mandolin Rain – but jammed through pieces of the lesser known Shadow Hand, Halcyon Days and the Dead song Black Muddy River for those hardcore fans hanging on every note.  Another little fun shoutout was a Sopranos nod with “Got Yourself a Gun” during an earlier tune.  Newcomers may not even notice, but there is an element of discovery makes repeat customers feel lke insiders.

Remember Your Roots – 10 – 15 years ago, Bruce regularly also had a live feature where he invited women on stage to dance to Rainbow’s Cadillac.  I even found a video of this happening at his show on millenium eve – memorable because the weight of the women broke the revolving stage (and yes, I was there).  Listen for the chorus of “Women are Smarter” in the song.   I hadn’t seen him do it in a while, and as the picture at the head of this post shows, he brought it back because “they finally got the stank back on it”.  That’s Bruce on top of the piano playing the accordian.   Another example of honoring roots is Bruce always playing The Way It Is, End of The Innocence, and Mandolin Rain.  This is that moment of recall for those who may be less familiar with his work and a chance for him to really push the envelope on how he twists and turns 20+ year old tunes.

Give it Away Now – If you love something set it free.  Bruce’s new record company has just put up a complete livestream of his new album – 5 weeks before release.  Will it stop me from buying the real thing?  Far from it.  It gets me excited now and has me making more concert plans.

All of the above principles give me a real, multidimensional story to tell about Bruce.  Are you feeding your customers’ hunger for conversational capital?

Big on The Pig

Big on The Pig

It’s hard to believe it, but I am only 3 days back from a wonderful vacation to Folly Beach, SC.  I learned a lot of things while I was there – the wonders of a planter’s punch with lunch, the beauty of the Charleston Place Hotel, the calming presence of the SC Aquarium for toddlers and…the power of THE PIG.Piggly_Wiggly

You may think of Piggly Wiggly as an old or outdated brand.  So did I.  Upon driving into Folly and seeing that there was also a Harris Teeter, I planned to buy food there.  Our hosts, however, kept joking about ‘The Pig’ so when it came time to stock up, that’s where we headed.

Piggly Wiggly had what you expect them to have, plus lots of surprises – including tiny shopping carts for kids to push and occasional visits from “Mr. Pig” who played some patient Peekaboo with the youngest Miracle.  Because of the fun, going to the store wasn’t a chore at all.  We went often and spent heartily.  The Pig took a lot more BSOW (Beach Share of Wallet) than one would expect from a grocery store.  In addition to food, we purchased: Pig Coozies, Giant Pig cups, shockingly fashionable sunglasses, and local specialty Benne Wafers and Blenheim Ginger Ale (fan site for this shockingly HOT ginger ale here) for gifts.  We’re back in DC, but I may still order the toddler “big on the pig” shirt.

You know what the Pig has?  Fun, Personality, and oodles of conversational capital.  They are *not* trying to be Whole Foods, nor they your everyday cheapo store.  The Pig is not trying to be anything other than what it is – a great family southern chain that understands its audience and embraces its kitchiness and the surrounding nostalgia.  I would say that I wish we had The Pig here – except removing it from its surroundings would kill the authenticity, heritage, and magic.  The Pig has truly bloomed where it was planted and we will be running back as soon as we can.