Marketing, Uncategorized

Strangers, Friends, and Donald Trump

 

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I walked into a coffee shop last week to write for this blog. A lady sat at a table next to me, and began working on her computer. After a decade in Lake County, I know a lot of faces, but this was a stranger. We typed in harmony for the duration of a cup of coffee. Then she got up for more coffee, and asked me to watch her computer and bag while she was gone. I nodded, and went back to work.

It’s interesting that I had, in less than an hour, become a trusted resource to protect her belongings. It’s not that I wouldn’t ask the same of her, but neither do I pretend that asking a stranger to watch my stuff makes any sense. In fact, if I were the sort of person who runs off with other people’s laptop-filled messenger bags, this is exactly the scenario I would seek out: Sit at a coffee shop next to someone, and wait for them to ask that I watch their stuff. Then calmly wander off with it. That would be much less suspicious than walking in off the street in search of loot, like the type of person from whom my typing companion was clearly enlisting me to save her.

And yet, somehow, the hour we spent together (in silence) had created rapport.

The idea that strangers become trusted friends based on exposure is well understood by marketers and campaign managers. Why else would a company like Coca Cola spend millions posting pictures of their logo? Why should you pitch that booth at the farmer’s market each week? And why would Hilary Clinton post signs that simply say “Vote for Hilary?” Because it works.

We get more customers by being visible. We get more votes by putting up more signs, or showing up more on the news. Donald Trump gains trust from years on reality TV, whether he makes any sense or not. And Hilary gets a boost because we’ve known her since Bill got elected in 1992. But I still wouldn’t trust her to watch my bag at a coffee shop.

Christian

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Uncategorized

The #1 Grape Grower in the World

Panorama of Burgundy vineyards . France       Andy Beckstoffer sells wine grapes at prices above $10,000 per ton, in an industry where $2,000 is more common. He grows thousands of acres, and has spent 40 years turning Beckstoffer Vineyards into a luxury brand in an industry dominated by nameless commodities.

“Uhh, how?” asked a fellow grape grower at a meeting I attended a few years ago.

The question was a good one. If the man who dominates your industry shows up at a meeting, it’s time to table the agenda and start asking him questions.

And Andy was happy to share, in his charming Virginia accent. “Well, Bill, if you grow wine grapes, you better grow the best damn wine grapes in the world. And you better put all your energy into that, and you better ask people to put your name on the bottle so people know where the grapes came from. And when your winemaker customers get a higher price for their wine because your grapes are better than everyone else’s, you better ask to get a proper share of that price.”

I knew all that from reading about Beckstoffer in history books, but it was still fun to hear it from the man himself.

And then came the nugget that I hadn’t read anywhere.

“But even if you grow the best damn grapes, you need people to notice. So if you’re a grape grower, you’re not going to be spending time with other grape growers. Grape growers don’t buy grapes. You better be spending time with winemakers. Winemakers buy grapes. And the best winemakers in America were in Napa Valley when we started, so that’s where I set up office. If you’re a grape grower, you’re selling grapes to winemakers, so you better walk where they walk, eat where they eat, and pee where they pee. And then when they come up short on a wine blend, and you’re standing right there at the urinal next to them, you bet they’re gonna ask you about the finest grapes in the world.”

They didn’t mention urinals when I took my MBA, and I’m not sure if they came up at Dartmouth in 1966 when Andy finished his. But Andy’s comments have done more for my understanding of business than most of the things that did come up in school.

Christian

ps. If Andy reads this post, I hope he will excuse my paraphrase. I couldn’t take notes fast enough to get it verbatim. I hope to have captured the essence.

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