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Experience is Still King: Learning From Others

In the last blog we discussed “The Third Screen” (mobile) and how that has taken over as the primary way most consumers get their information. In a few years, when the balance of Gen Z hits 21, this will be taken to a whole new level for our industry.

If you have a website and any social media presence, you need to me mindful of how your advertising and marketing communication looks on a smartphone. You need to understand how your customers think about your brand and products and how they influence the behavior of the others. (What to drink, where to buy it, what day/time, pictures, recipes, selfies etc.).

However, I still believe that experience is still king and those of you (both on and off-premise) that understand and exploit this will win. I was recently in Chicago at the National Restaurant Association show. We stayed downtown on Michigan avenue and I got a chance to visit the Starbucks Reserve Roastery with a few of my students. While I’m not a fan of Starbucks coffee, I do appreciate how they understand and leverage the Starbucks “experience.”

They promote this venue as “A multi-sensory destination of epic proportions. The Chicago Roastery is five stories of coffee theater. Both workshop and stage, it’s a three-dimensional window into the coffee journey. It’s an immersive experience.”

This is a new format and it seems as if each time they open a new roastery (currently in Seattle, New York City, Tokyo, Shanghai and Milan), they make it a brand-new experience. For those of you who want more information directly from Starbucks you can visit the website for the roastery at

It’s very similar to the larger craft brewers that tie manufacturing to the retail food/beverage service operations. Vineyards (with and without food service operations) are another great example of using multi-sensory experience to build a brand. They take you through all of the steps in the process and also highlight the sensory cues (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch) that “deliver” the experience.

Two other great multi-sensory retail experiences we can all learn from are Stew Leonard’s ( in the New York metro area and Jungle Jim’s ( ) in Ohio.

So, what does this mean for your business? I’m a big believer in the “Borrow, Copy, Adapt and Adopt” thought process as it relates to marketing. I always look at what’s going on “outside” of my world. When we do planning meetings for clients, we always take a 360 degree view of what is going on outside, so we can identify things that may not directly impact them now, but may be a harbinger of things to come. “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” old but true. Success Leaves Clues!

Take a look at what Starbucks, Stew Leonard’s, Jungle Jim’s, Apple, Disney, Wegman’s HEB Central Market and other retailers do with their brands and “borrow, copy, adapt, and adopt”.

Whether you are an on-premise or off-premise establishment, you need to make sure that you understand YOUR consumers and build your products, merchandising and marketing programs around them. It will positively impact your bottom line!

And remember, marketing is a race with no finish line.

George Latella

George Latella teaches Food Marketing at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. Food Marketing which is the largest major at Saint Joseph’s University recently celebrated its 60th anniversary. George is also a partner in Beacon Marketing group which provides Marketing planning, research, and e-commerce/direct marketing communications for food and beverage companies. George can be reached at or 610-304-1034.

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