Last Friday, after a particularly grueling week, my wife and I had dinner with friends at a local Greek restaurant. It's 8:00. I'm tired and I want to head home. "No," my wife says...
in chorus with my friend's wife, "we have to take you on the grand tour."
In we walk to Uncle Giuseppe's Market. This is not a supermarket, but a super-size specialty food store, the kind you might find on Manhattan's West Side, or in the Italian neighborhoods of Boston or San Francisco. Now I have absolutely no sense of smell, but I am blown away by the sights and sounds. Beautiful displays of prepared foods, more kinds of Asiago and other cheese than I ever knew existed, chocolates, produce rivaled only by what I saw in the open markets in Siracusa.
In between listening to the Sinatra/Jerry Vale/Dean Martin music*, I stopped to talk to a few of the people working behind the counters. You felt the love they had for what they were doing jumping out at you, telling you this is as good as it gets.
Then I start noticing prices. With the exception of a few specials, everything is high compared to ordinary supermarkets .... tuna nearly $4 a pound more, and so on. But Uncle Giuseppe's is no ordinary supermarket; it is an unforgettable experience.
So what the Helvarti does all this have to do with DIRECT MARKETING? Absolutely nothing! Despite Godfather Lester Wunderman's pronouncement that all marketing would become direct marketing, Uncle Giuseppe's needs direct marketing like Sinatra needed elocution lessons.
It's all word-of-mouth that brings new shoppers in by the droves. It's the scope, the sights, the smells that no catalog or Web site can duplicate that bring customers back, lead them to conduct "grand tours" for husbands, friends, relatives. It's the employees' enthusiasm that no letter can capture, no DRTV can make real enough.**
Oh sure, Uncle Giuseppe's could capture shoppers email addresses and let them know about specials. Oh sure, they could test direct mail to local subscribers of Food & Wine, Gourmet, and La Cucina Italiana. But if I'm the store manager, I'd get more from taking 50 teachers (nobody spreads the word faster) through the store and letting them sample food from every department.
* They left out Louis Prima!
** Not that Lester Wunderman needs praise from me, but beside coining the term "direct marketing," he has talked fervently about the power of word-of-mouth marketing.
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