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Those Darned Fish Again

I just returned from visiting my family in Alabama. For anyone who is asking, no, I am not from Alabama.

While I was there, my mother told me about this little catfish restaurant she ate at in Mississippi. (No, I'm not from Mississippi either.)

This little dive of a restaurant was located several miles down a dirt road. The only indication of their existence was a faded sign where the main road turned onto the dirt road.

Turns out, the place is some kind of legend - and it was packed. She explained that if you didn't know exactly where you were going, you would never find it.

What an interesting example of the power of word-of-mouth.

So, my question is this:

What was the big deal? The catfish or the story?

I'm willing to bet my pet catfish that their catfish wasn't really any better than other restaurants in town. Perhaps it wasn't even as good. I can't say for sure because I didn't eat it.

My gut tells me the reason this place got away with being down a dirt road, with no directionals, and no marketing was precisely because it was down a dirt road, with no directionals, and no marketing.

In other words, the allure of the place really was its off beat nature - not really the food.

This is an important lesson. I believe it falls under brandscending.

People love to get all caught up (like a catfish in a net) in branding and getting their name out there. Small businesses and hole in walls really can't afford to waste their time with that. But that doesn't mean they can't benefit from it.

Indeed, the best form of branding is the kind that is not created by marketing - but is created by reality.

And "great catfish" is not a brand. Not unless the catfish was tasted like lobster, that is. No, it's not the quality of the mouse trap that won in this instance (or any other for that matter). It's what people had to go through to get the mousetrap. The journey became the brand - not the restaurant itself. The journey was a story - and a story worth telling, just like my mother told me.

So when you're thinking about how to make your business scendsational, or worth talking about, consider focusing less on the product itself, and more on the experience of consuming the product or service - or perhaps, the process of finding your product or service. It will likely make for a more interesting story - and stories are what people tell around water coolers.

So, is this "non-marketing" business smart for not engaging in marketing (outside of word-of-mouth)?

I don't think so. It's a good start - but smart marketing could compound their success. Consider this: they could draw up old-looking treasure maps that lead to their restaurant and send them to an appropriate target - or if there's any tourism in the area, print it in a guide book. Through marketing, they could enhance and promote their story - without resorting to cliche methods.

Just a thought.