Rudy’s BBQ, my favorite restaurant chain in Texas, serves REALLY good “Sause”, which they also sell by the bottle.
Being the total “Social Object” geek, I’ll say it again- It’s not the sauce in the bottle which makes the Rudy’s “Sause” brand interesting- it’s the social interaction that happens around it that’s interesting.
It’s fun to go to Rudy’s with your friends to talk and eat. It’s fun to buy some ribs at the supermarket, get the smoker in the back yard fired up, douse the meat with Rudy’s Sause, fill up the cooler with beer, crank up the Willie Nelson and invite some friends over.
And yes, if Rudy’s sucked, if Rudy’s BBQ sauce sucked, it would be less fun. And so we wouldn’t buy it; we’d go with something else. It’s the friends and fun we’re actually paying for- the human interaction- not the red stuff in the bottle.
Too many brand managers ask the question, “What message do I have to craft in order to get people to buy my product?” It’s a dead end. A far more useful and profitable question would be, “What can I do to make my customers’ lives more interesting and meaningful?”
And “Meaningful” always has a social dynamic. We find meaning via our relationships with our fellow creatures. “People matter. Objects don’t.”
A bottle of barbecue sauce isn’t going to instantly change anyone’s life for the better. But that 4-hour-long conversation with an old friend, sharing a plate of ribs and brisket, with some Shiner Bock… Well, that might. So you want your product to be there when it happens; you want your product to be around during your customers’ significant moments.
Rudy’s understands this. How about you?
P.S. If that latter “Interesting & Meaningful” question sounds like a hard one to answer, that’s because it is. There’s a reason why the companies who manage to pull it off on a fairly consistent basis -Apple, Nike etc- are worth tens of billions.
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Agreed. But ““What can I do to make my customers’ lives more interesting and meaningful?” implies that the “object” in question be good.
Totally agree, Amrita. Which means if you’re product isn’t good, is lacking baked-in “sociality”, you’re at a considerable disadvantage.
Which sums up perfectly why social media/Social Web/collective thought…rocks. 😉
i’ve been wanting to say, “hey hugh, thanks for mentioning shiner,” since the fourth of july.
this seems to be an appropriate place to say, “i agree.” it is fantastic beer and fairly easy for me to get up here in pennsylvania.
Aw, dangit. Now I have to go to Rudy’s tonight for some brisket and Shiner Bock.
A brilliant, solidly-struck bullseye, Hugh. You so clearly define human nature’s need and how to apply it to marketing effectively. Hands down, you’ve given the answer.
Excellent. Just the fact that you made your point with a wondrous product like BBQ shows how right it is 😉
This all sounds very true to me. What I don’t understand is how Rudy’s has managed to insert its sause inbetween the 4-hour long conversation with the old friend. I mean, aside from it tasting good.
“Aside from it tasting good.”
Ummm… What else is there?
This is how I understand what you are telling us. Please correct me if I am wrong.
I want to market my product effectively.
The best way to do this is to turn my product into a social object. The best way to do that is to produce a product of high quality.
I am not educated in marketing at all so please forgive me if I sound ignorant but, where does the marketing come in?
From my POV (as an ex-Product Manager), “marketing” is more than “advertising & promotion” although the word is sometimes used that way.
Marketing, in the larger sense, includes product design. That said, you can see where my POV now leads: The entire act of producing a superior product is based in collaboration w customers, research, social media “listening” and more.
What “social media” changes, so to speak, is the importance (and benefit) of involving customers way up front, of giving them real ownership and then holding yourself to their standards.
As a frequent diner at Ruby’s, I can tell you that they get this. It’s not about the ads and the coupons and…it’s about having a great product. (And to top it all off, no pun intended, having the humility to “market” yourself as “The worst BBQ in Texas.” Clearly, Rudy’s customers disagree. ;-))
Yo, that looks like the best sauce ever. The plain wrapping tells me whats on the inside is beautiful.
Glad the point was repeatedly made that the most important thing is that the BBQ sauce is great.
So the question a struggling brand might need to ask is, “Does my product suck?” And that is best measured and answered by the number of REPEAT sales.
I love Rudy’s. It is one of the reasons I moved back to TX. They have created a great product and culture including their plates (or lack of).
You hit the nail on the head. I love taking people to Rudy’s for the first time esp non Texans that exp the food, country music, and ask questions about the wax paper plates.
Unrelated note. This place was the first BBQ joint to serve white bread and pickles with the meal. I was sold. Can’t wait to go again during SXSWi.
Under the assumption that your product is in fact great (if not, why make it?), the powerful question is not how to develop a straight product pitch, but how to create and promote the BBQ (or analogous) situations for your customers.
My spin is that social interaction does NOT revolve around Rudy’s Sause or any particular product. I have had some amazing social interactions around pizza and crappy beer and had the most lame boring social interaction over Caviar and Lobster. If you stripped everything away our social interaction would be driven by our own personalities and our natural desire to “hang” with like minded souls. A socially interesting A-Hole with a Hot Dog is a lot more fun than a stuck up ignoramus with Rudy’s BBQ.
Yes, Ricko, and the converse is also true: A socially interesting A-Hole with Rudy’s is a lot more fun than a stuck up ignoramus with a Hot Dog.
Different people socialize around different objects…. differently. Who woulda thunk? 😉
Hugh, isn’t that the point you were making with the Rudy’s sauce. From my perspective, your point is not whether Rudy’s sauce is any good or not– it is that the sauce is the social object that draws the social interaction. Without some commonality (whether the object is good or bad), the is no social inteaction. I think the quote by Emerson in the Digital Strangelove presentation about grasping principles is very appropriate to this conversation.
I think it is sometimes possible to extend the social object concept beyond its logical bounds. This example works OK because it is barbecue sauce. It might have a tougher time if it was toilet paper. That said, for products that have a logical social interaction, it is fair to say “baked in sociality” is an interesting discussion. I would also add, however, that some of the “fun” in the bottle is your positive perception of your in-store experience…”borrowed perception” from the good times you had at the restaurant. The “baked-in” sociality may well be the service experience they baked in, and the product is just “living la vida loca” on the backs of the waiters, waitresses and cooks that have you believing that everything Rick’s is just damned good. 😉
[…] nails it yet again with this recent post. He writes: “Too many brand managers ask the question, ‘What message do I have to craft […]
1) besides Willi, I’d throw in some Lyle Lovett, Asleep at the Wheel … Jerry Jeff Walker (?), some Bob Wills.
2) Regional marketing
I’ve got my fingers in a few local food pies (companies) and pitch : where are your customers
We live in a Vacation Area with a lot of seasonal residents, and I pound the table that we can sell into markets where folks have their primary residence, but not into other markets.
We are NW Mich, and can sell Chicago, but not Texas.
Selling the “memories of great summers”
Keep up the Good Work(s)
Let’s not forget Billy Joe Shaver. ;->
One way I’ve decided to try is to host mini online art shows on my website.
But, an art show needs an opening reception, those are always “social.” So I’m planning live “opening receptions” online via Twitter!