All of the street vendors admit their food is the same as the next guy. So how do we choose where to go?

We’re hunting for dinner on the huge square of Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakesh. There’s a row of food vendors with maybe 20 pop-up restaurants in a single corridor, 10 on each side. From dusk until past dark, there is a swarm of people flowing through and they are picked off by snipers, I mean, hustlers, I mean, concierge boys, who wave menus at you and flaunt their best items and do pretty much anything they can think of to get you to sit down at their place.

You’d think that the Vice President of Marketing* would choose the most outgoing, friendly and knowledgeable of the team, but it’s not always the case. Some are forceful, others are intimidating and almost threaten you to sit down, while others give up too easily and forget to point out anything remotely close to a benefit of eating at their place.

Then there are the guys who look like they’d rather be there selling seats than out with their friends. Oh wait, that’s because they are out with their friends. They joke with each other and laugh and if you just show them a bit of respect and flash them a smile, they’ll play right along and it will be win-win, even if you don’t sit at their place.

One guy flat out said that all of the food was the same at all of the restaurants, so why shouldn’t we go to his place? Aha, but here’s where he missed Chapter 7 of the “Marketing Manual for Market Mayhem”: What is your factor of differentiation? In other words, if the products are all the same, how will you distinguish yourself from the rest?

Each restaurant has a number and a name. For example, the first night, our riad (guesthouse) owner suggested #1 and Aisha. If you manage to squeeze through the gauntlet, they’ll often call out the name of their place to help you remember, “Don’t forget, #57!” But only one guy stood out from the rest.

“One one seven tastes like heaven.”* — sang the young man with a smile and a hand on my shoulder as if we were long-lost friends.

I had to give him credit for that one. It was witty and although I might construe its meaning as his place is so deadly with food poisoning that I’ll be in the hospital by midnight and in heaven by morning, it was memorable. Even my sons loved it.

“Finger licking good!” he called out to us as we continued on our way down the gauntlet of street vendors.

Please note that he’s not even trying to dress up the fact that he just plain stole a tagline from a famous brand name that he figures we might have heard one day–he was right. Finger Licking Good was used by¬†Kentucky Fried Chicken for decades.

Let’s keep in mind the marketplace:

  1. They admit that all of the food is the same.
  2. Location, location, location doesn’t really apply here as they’re all lined up together and have views of … each other.
  3. It’s a constant barrage of verbal marketing diarrhea. I’m not going to remember any of it unless …
  4. There will be zero or very few repeat customers, so even quality of the product doesn’t matter all that much.

So what does matter in their marketing strategy?

  1. Who do we even slightly remember?
  2. Who was having a good time?
  3. Who was someone ‘approachable’ where we’d feel comfortable sitting with?

There was a clear winner and I knew it, too. The next night, we made a beeline for 117. As we approached, the guy, I’m not even sure if it was the same guy as two nights ago, said with enthusiasm and a huge handshake, “One one seven tastes like heaven.”

We sat down and everyone was happy.

Isn’t that the goal of good marketing? Both sides are happy. Both sides win. It’s win win. Both sides feel as if they did it right and “won.”

Everything else aside, is your tagline memorable?

Everything else being equal, it just might be the difference between someone picking your book off the (digital) shelf over the next one.

* Minor exaggeration of the¬†hierarchical organization of the food stall industry, but I couldn’t resist.
** It might have been, “117 is the path to heaven.” or maybe “One one seven, stairway to heaven.”

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