Melbourne Food & Wine Festival’s Wicked Sunday: A missed marketing opportunity?

AKA – How to Stand Out in a Crowd

 

Coffee, gelati, coffee, cupcakes, coffee, coffee machines, coffee, gelati, cheese, coffee, coffee, gelati, cupcakes, biscuits, coffee.

That was the make-up of today’s Wicked Sunday at the 2009 Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

 

Heaven! A coffee and cake festival – how much more Melbourne can you get? Even the weather smiled today, happy to celebrate in a grey sort of way that is also very Melbourne.

Coffee Cup

 

It was crowded, a free event often is, but I couldn’t help thinking that too few stands took the opportunity to engage with the community that had gathered. Too focused on just being an extension of their regular retail presence, many stands treated the festival as a transaction instead of a conversation.

 

Personally, I had been looking forward to having all these purveyors in the same vicinity. As a devotee of Jock’s Ice-Cream I rarely wander off the beaten track that is worn between my house and the store in Albert Park. So thinking that I would be able to sample some of the other local and regional gelati makers, I made my way in to Federation Square.

 

Disappointment!

 

I guess that I was expecting something like a harvest picnic, with samples available to try-before-you-buy. Sadly, this was not the case. Whilst all coffee stalls offered a cup at a flat rate of $2, the cakes and gelati stalls appeared to offer their regular prices. We did purchase so we could eat, drink and be merry, but I didn’t get the opportunity to sample, compare and explore new tastes. This lack of opportunity for me also translates into a lost opportunity for the stall holders to reach out to a new customer.

 

With so many competitors in a confined space, you need you stand out and create some buzz around your product. Here are my ideas based on my customer experience today.

 

Free Samples

Free samples don’t have to be anything more than a taste. A lick, sliver, slice or sip delivers you the same taste sensation for your product without satiating the full desire. And it leaves your customer wanting more! Of course you need to be willing to allow your product to be compared to the others on offer. However, if you are confident that your product is the best, let people compare and they will come back and buy.  

 

A full size cone (coffee or cake) that fills you up can be a good exclusionary tactic that prevents someone going to your competitor. I certainly didn’t need another coffee after my first one, so I wandered past the 12 other stands that were just making coffee. In a competitive environment such as a food festival where there are 5 or 10 other people selling the same thing as you, you need to give people a reason to stop and check you out.

 

More than just creating greater consumer awareness on the day, during a sample exchange you get to talk to the customer, engage them and invite them to take the next step with you. That might be an immediate upgrade to a full size right now, or to purchase an item to take home, or an invitation to come to your regular premises. And more people are likely to do that because you have reached out to them, enticed them, conversed with them.

 

$2 Cap on Everything

I knew in advance that all the coffee stalls would be offering their wares at a flat rate of $2. A local café was taking part and had been promoting the event from their store leading up to the event. It had however set an expectation that there would be similar offerings from everyone else.

 

A $2 cap actually promotes the sense of a bargain for the customer. How many times do you walk out of a $2 Shop having only spent two dollars? In this festival environment, it would also help promote the idea of sampling all that was on offer. Offer less for less, and people often buy more, they still think of it as a bargain!

 

Joint Ventures

One coffee stall that managed to stand out from the rest had a joint venture going with another store from their neighbourhood. (Obviously sharing a stall also reduces your costs.) This one combined coffee with grooves, and helped cross-promote each other’s uniqueness. Something else that they did really well was get out from behind the coffee counter, went into the crowd, and took orders on the coffee cups from the people passing.

 

Other possible joint ventures could have been between the coffee and cake stands; capturing the customer in one place with this traditional pairing. There were also some coffee machine retailers with stands, they could have paired with a coffee stall already using their machines to help direct customers to their lonely looking tents. Cheese & wine, coffee & cake, coffee & cake, coffee & cake (there were heaps of coffee stands!)

 

Competitions/Database/Fans & Followers

I didn’t see one stall offering a competition. A couple of places were offering you a place on their mailing list, but with no incentives, very few seemed to be taking up the offer. To me this seems like the most wasted opportunity. Whether it was a constraint placed on the stall holders by the event planners, I’m not sure, (I’ll investigate further), but to me this would be a perfect opportunity to grow you following, and be able to reconnect in the future.

 

And with so much passing traffic, what a perfect spot to promote your twitter presence! Or facebook? Shoot a short video to go on YouTube, take photo’s for Flickr? If you are too busy to have a conversation at the festival or fair, make sure you can have it in the future.

 

Special Mentions

St Ali – for engaging with the crowds by demonstrating and sharing samples from their Hario Syphon Filter Demonstration

Obscura & White Rabbit  – for their JV of coffee & grooves (but where were the rabbit ears?) 

 

Success

Based on crowd numbers, and participants, I’m sure that the event will be declared a success. But for many stall holders, how will you measure that success? That you sold out on the day? Or that you have x number of new regulars supporting your product all year round?

 

I look forward now to next year’s event,

Cheers,

Tracy Tormai

 

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