When I was in New York recently I paid my first visit to the Soy Luck Club, which I was turned on to by my favorite passage in my favorite Seth Godin book, “All Marketers Are Liars”:
The Authenticity of the Soy Luck Club
My number one hangout in New York is a hard-to-find little coffee shop run by Vivian Cheng. The Soy Luck Club has fast, free internet access, organic oatmeal cookies, soy shakes and really good tea. They’ve got comfortable chairs, a great staff and just the right sort of atmosphere.
Most people on the street walk right on by and don’t even notice the Club. Others, though, pause, take a quick look at the menu and the layout and people inside and then walk in as though they own the place. They’ve figured out—almost instantly—that this is their sort of place. The frame of Vivian’s story matches their worldview and they’re sold before they even order anything.
How does she do it? I know Vivian well enough to tell you that it’s not an intentional gambit on her part. The luscious pressed whole wheat bagels with banana and soy butter aren’t on the menu because she’s trying to trick someone into thinking the place is healthy and funky. It’s there because Vivian likes it and is proud of it.
Fortunately for Vivian she doesn’t live in Indianapolis. In Indianapolis, she wouldn’t be able to run a thriving business that so beautifully matches her sensibilities. But in this neighborhood of New York, it’s perfect.
The Soy Luck Club is authentic in every way because it reflects who Vivian is and what sort of place she’d like to hang out in. So, how does she grow?
She could try to grow by persuading people who don’t care about ambience and healthy foods and fluffy couches that this place is better than Starbucks. She could grow by persuading people to eat more soy so they don’t have a heart attack. Neither approach stands a chance of working. People don’t want to change their minds.
Instead, Vivian is growing by reaching out to communities that will choose to pay attention, to individuals who have a worldview that will embrace the story she’s trying to tell. A block away, the Equinox health club gives out discount cards to the Soy Luck Club. The assumption (a correct one) is that people notice a discount card if it’s given to them by someone they trust. Even better, people who pay good money to work out in the middle of the winter are significantly more likely to want to believe in a story of healthy nutrition right around the corner. So it grows.
Of course, Vivian will really have a home run once her loyal customers start telling stories to their friends—friends who might not share the worldview but are eager to do something that others are doing, eager to hang out at a place beloved by their best friends. That’s how Starbucks succeeded and how the Soy Luck Club will as well.
As a marketer, I think there’s more useful stuff in that one passage than there is in most entire marketing books out there. So for the benefit of my readers, I’m re-publishing it. Thanks to Seth for kindly giving me permission.
P.S. Yes, the bagels do rock.
One of the things I love about Seth baby is how generous he is with his s***.
My biggest beef about him previously was his microscopic font size (trying reading Purple Cow on a moving vehicle, not fun) but now that he’s fixing that…
The man knows his stuff. Thanks for the post!
hey did you get fish and chips at the brit store across the street, the unfortunately named “a salt and battery”?
I’ve always believed, follow your heart and the money will come. There’s info there that you can apply to life, not just marketing.
A while back, I remember receiving some links to websites about soy being bad for you from my brother. I didn’t buy it. Do you remember that?
…by your command.
You don’t know how to increase the font size in your browser?
And if she had chosen to live in Indianapolis, she would have Indianapolisian sensibilities and would similarly thrive. I think it’s important to stress that the passage does not just apply to metrosexual marketing.
What a pleasant surprise when I saw this picture in your post via my feedreader; I live just down the street from this and pass it regularly. However, my experiences have been a little different than the idyllic one you provided (whether from Seth’s book or not). I find the place a bit on the untidy side (ok, not quite clean?), somewhat ironic for the healthy image it promotes. They did not shovel their sidewalk after the snow and ice-storm this past weekend (as is required by NYC). Finally, I get nervous seeing their morning delivery of bread a little too close to the edge of their night gates (live in NY with dogs, and you will get the point).
Let me know if you will be in NYC for some time longer, and I can introduce you to ‘Snice just down the street. Yummy, yummy, yummy.
That Greenwich village corner is very desirable real estate – but unfortunatly throughout the years there have been so many failed businesses on that block – due to high costs and taxes, they seldom last more than a couple of years.
Joe, I think Kimber was talking about the treeware version.
(but that’s just my guess)
In Indiana haven’t they already tested and moved ahead to Roundup Ready Alfalfa Sprouts?
“Joe, I think Kimber was talking about the treeware version.
(but that’s just my guess)”
That guess would be bang on.
You win the prize
(which is a year’s free membership to the gapingvoid blog site…effective twelve months ago)
Thank you Ferdi for clarifying my fuzzy point.
Sometimes I forget that you can’t all peak into my rather disturbed mind.
I was lucky enough to discover Soy Luck Club just recently on my first visit to New York and I cannot forget the place (obviously). You would think I would talk about the other amazing sights and impressions of NY but I relish in and retell my memories of 3 days in a row of Soy Luck Club dining. So many people would be so happy to have such a place in their neighborhood!