Marketing is the Product

There’s this local coffee house in my neighborhood that I’ve been going to over the years. It used to be the place to go to avoid crowds, to find a quiet nook and scrape together my college paper that was due the next morning. Today, business is booming, and if you show up during prime business hours, you have but a prayer of even finding a place to sit.

Good for them. Clearly they’re doing something right.. I sat down with the owner yesterday and chatted with him about the brand. What he believes has attributed to his success over the years and what differentiates his place from the countless number of other cafes in the area.

The most poignant point he made was one that is relevant for every business owner and product creator out there. He clearly stated that the brand wasn’t one simply identified by ownership, or carefully crafted by a marketing team. Rather, the brand has been molded and shaped by their customers. They’re the one’s responsible for crafting what is now a brand recognized with comfort, approachability, character, and warmth.

Seth Godin spoke to this point earlier this week:

“In the Mad Men era, we added marketing last. Marketing and advertising were the same thing, and the job was to promote what was made. In the connection era, the marketing is the product, the service and most of all the conversations it causes and the connections it makes.

Marketing is the first thing we do, not the last. Build virality and connection and remarkability into your product or service from the start and then the end gets a lot easier. Build it into your app, your book, your movie, your insurance policy, and the red soles of your shoes.”

It’s not about marketing a great cup of coffee, it’s about communicating the value and the connection the brand inspires in everything they do. I don’t drive out of my way for their Americano, I go the extra mile because of the feeling I get when I walk through their doors. The emotion it invokes. The connection I have to the people. The familiar faces I undoubtedly see.

That loyalty hasn’t been created not by a savvy marketing team, or even by the company itself, but by the patrons. The users. That one guy who always claims that one booth in the back corner. The raving fans.

Now, nearly 10 years after opening their doors, they’re focused not on marketing a cup of coffee, but instead, on promoting and selling the culture, values, and that undeniable feeling you have when you pull up a chair at one of their tables amongst family and friends.

Because of their commitment to the experience and culture, selling cups of coffee and plates of locally-sourced food is exponentially easier.

The takeaway: Don’t underestimate, and certainly don’t ignore the power your customers, and what they’ll undoubtedly contribute to your brand’s identity, and ultimately, your bottom line.

(Photo credit)