Marketing Show and Tell

Here’s a short story about Olive Garden and wine.  It’s a good reminder that marketers need to make their products and services approachable, easy-to-understand, and sometimes even fun.

The “When You’re Here You’re Family” people really mean it, especially when it comes to wine.

Photo: Olive Garden

See, you can get a free taste before your order.  Yes, that’s right.  Depending on state laws, you can get a free 1 oz. taste or pay a nominal fee (e.g., $.25 in New Jersey).

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, wine columnist Lettie Teague gushed enthusiastically about her experience at a New Jersey Olive Garden with her friendly waiter, Lamar, who initiated a wine conversation and encouraged the sampling.  Teague went on to say that “show, don’t tell, after all, is as good a motto for wine as it is for life.”

It’s also a good mindset to keep in mind for your marketing and sales teams, although “show and tell” is probably an ideal combination.

Wine, like any other product or service, shouldn’t be mysterious or hard to understand.  Yet, that’s often the case, typically because there’s a communication disconnect between experts (i.e., producers and members of the distribution chain) and consumers, in this case, the wine drinkers.  When I was a brand team leader at Unilever, we used to joke about this phenomenon and we had an expression to use when someone got carried away with too much inside knowledge:  “You’re talking to yourself.”

This happens a lot in the wine business, where few people know about the denomination of origin system that governs most of the wine-producing world.  Fewer still have any clue about specific areas within a growing region or even individual chateaus or bodegas.  And beyond the basic grapes (e.g., Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay)  many are hard-pressed to have enough knowledge to feel comfortable with an in-store buying or restaurant ordering decision.  Yet, the experts carry on as if they’re talking to other experts.  Suffice it to say, making the wine buying/ordering process easier, more comfortable and fun should be a critical goal for the industry.

Marketers need to do the same thing.

Olive Garden gets it and that’s why they have the wine sampling program.  They’ve figured out an easy way to eliminate perhaps the number one inhibitor for wine purchase and consumption – lack of knowledge, which results in fear and inaction.  Instead, you get a friendly greeting and an offer you can’t refuse.  If you’re thinking about wine with your meal, sample and then decide.  Depending on state law, the risk might be zero.  Nope, this one’s not for me.  Ahh, this tastes great and I’ll buy a glass or maybe a bottle for the table.

Obviously, point-of-decision sampling is not a frequently available option.  But influencing the decision-making process is always an option, and that’s where the strategic and creative marketing comes into play.  Figure out how to communicate so your customer gets knowledgeable, comfortable and then persuaded that your choice is his/her best choice.

Keys to the “show and tell” approach are being able to de-mystify, personalize and dimensionalize the message to customers in meaningful ways.  Doing so will probably also strengthen your differentiation.

For example, instead of another “fact sheet” print ad detailing all your wonderful features and benefits (put that PDF document on your Web site), consider producing a short video of an internal team member speaking in his/her own words about why the product/service is so great.  Here’s one example of this type of video marketing.

Headline For Marketers

When it comes to marketing and selling, “talking to yourself” is not the way to go.  Instead adopt the “show and tell” mindset and figure out how to use this concept to bring your products and services to life for customers.

Harvey Chimoff is a hands-on marketing leader and business-wide collaborator who builds marketing capabilities in B2B/B2C organizations that drive customer success.



One thought on “Marketing Show and Tell

  1. Hi Harvey:
    Just wanted to tell you how much I enjoy reading your Wonderful World of Marketing postings that are full of interesting observations and great insights.
    Thanks for keeping me on your distribution list and keep up the terrific work!
    Warm regards, Paula


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