CASE STUDY 3: (2017)
Any local Butcher is a pirate-by-land. I’ve met a few. You probably have too. They cut up animals, remove the guts, remove the feet, legs, heads, peel back the ribs and trim the fat and if this fact isn’t graphic enough, buckle down the hatches, this one caps the other two PIRATES by far.
After 2 months of courting and comforting a local Queens butcher meat supplier, they finally sat down for a meeting. It is two owners, one Greek and the other Albanian. They agreed to meet finally and wanted to hear some of my marketing “ideas.” I don’t put out that easy anymore. They haven’t even bought me lunch or offered coffee.
I told them from the onset: “Branding and rebranding is an uncomfortable thing. You’ve been marketing your business a certain way which has worked so far but I’ll find another way that generates a better profit.” They weren’t convinced at all.
I normally offer to double or triple a business but in this case, they have a $8,000,000 (annually) business and in order to double or triple the business they are running now, it would mean some serious work and market penetration. This would cost even me a pretty penny ($20K-40K per month) to execute such an effort. These pirates didn’t want to spend too much. In their minds, I am completely untested in their meat market field as far as they were concerned.
I gave them an opportunity to spend $1,500, 3,000 or 4,500 for a one-two month effort. Which do you reckon they chose? Yep.
So one of their main concerns was a competing butcher located right down the street. The competitors were copycatting their business, soup to nuts. I knew the campaign I designed would have to factor in a considerable degree of confusion for the competitors. Pirates are easy to fool.
The 3 Phases (1-3) were totaling $9,000. They chose the cheapest ($1,500) Phase as you probably predicted. It’s the smallest amount to reinvest in their thriving business. Leave it to the pirates to never trust others and find the lowest common denominator and cheapest solution.
They cut a small check as a deposit for me as I studied their business for two weeks. I was NOT happy about this little CONTROL DRAMA maneuver, nevertheless I accepted the check.
I told them I’ll be doing research and observing their business. Clients generally don’t like to pay for research nor do they understand it or what value it brings. Whenever pirates spend anything, they want immediate results, like teenagers seeking instant gratification. They think research is a waste of time because it doesn’t produce an immediate net gain.
They said: “What research? We know all the other butchers in the area and they aren’t competing with us with wholesale business,” the pirate butchers said proudly.
The fact of the matter is that research illuminates a path to better, smarter and faster solutions. In this case, the research will give me the precise “white space” in the local market and allow me to derive at a compelling, slightly insane, yet brilliantly effective creative solution. The branding I’d be adding would be the makings of a very new approach to the Astoria area.
I said: “You’ve hired me to find out why your retail business has slacked over recent years. There’s going to be a reason for this, which none of us know for sure at this moment. I’ll find out what that is and give you a solution on how to fix this.“
The pirates looked skeptical. Pirates don’t trust anyone, not even each other.
A week later I came back and said: “I’ve went to 10 other local butchers and you have the most grotesque shop in town. The only one that’s worse is the Halal butcher where they kill live animals on 20th Avenue.“
I paused and studied their reaction for a moment. They were silent and only a tad offended as pirates often do before they tie you up and make you walk the plank. Still, like men, they listened with curiosity to see where this was all going.
I continued: “I have two options for you. The first, is to spend $40,000 and completely renovate the front space making it beautiful and hip and attractive to female customers.“
“We’re not going to do that. We just renovated the space 2 or 3 years ago,” they said.
“Okay. I have a second solution. Spend $40,000 and set up a second location dedicated to retail. I’ve located a very beautiful, old-fashioned butcher that looks like it had closed down years ago on Broadway. There is a municipal parking a block away and much much more foot traffic.“
“No. We’re not interested in that either,” the pirate butchers proclaimed.
I said: “Okay. Give me a couple more days and I’ll come up with a solution.“
The butcher is clean but purely functional. It feels and looks like an industrial warehouse for butchery.
The competing butchers have very nice displays with a wonder variety of “extras” that go with meat: pastes, pastas, sauces, seasonings, rubs, breads, crackers, etc… They also have a welcoming courtesy where they wave and/or say “hello” when you walk on and treat you like a human being.
Meanwhile, my client cuts open the box of Heinz ketchup, French’s mustard and lemon juice and leaves it on the counter top, still in the case, with no price stickers, kind of like something you’d do for barn animals. They turn and look at you like you are interrupting their work flow as if to say: “What do YOU want?”
[ “MEAT! Me want meat!” ]
This was back in June 2017. I compiled my research which primarily comprised of Yelp, Facebook, Google and Instagram reviews/comments for the ten different butchers. If you can imagine reading 600 reviews and getting a precise picture of each of the surrounding butchers, wasn’t easy. Reading and organizing the reviews was a lot of work—more than the $1,500 they paid for. I put together a rating system and presented a chart so they can see where they stand in the area.
I came back with a solution. If we are going with the brash and surly “Peter Luger Steakhouse (Brooklyn) or Katz’s Deli (Manhattan) personas” this pirate butcher is going to be the equivalent in Astoria, Queens. And if they went for this campaign, it was going to be a doosey. They did. I was happy.
It was a full-fledged Anti-Marketing campaign which consisted of just three pieces (see photos below). Now I was excited and could easily see the mainstream media press “eat this one up.”
1) I purchased a beat-up and used, heavy-duty sandwich board. On one side read: “SEMI-OPEN To The Public.” The little local research I did revealed that most people thought they were wholesale only. There’s a large wholesale bread baker located right next door so this wpuld make perfect sense. On the other side of the blackboard read: “It’s not pretty. Queens Meat.“
The other headline I wanted to put on the board outside for even greater (brand persona) effect was: “Where everyday is Halloween.,” but that would have to wait until the client was more comfortable.
I told that halloween headline to one of the butchers and he said: “I don’t get it.”
“Perfect” I thought. I used that one on the business card instead.
2) They had a string of little international flags which were hung on the awning every morning. I replaced those with three full-sized American flags, all black and white, one for the Military, one for the NYPD, and one for the FDNY.
3) I did 1,000 business cards (decorated with farm animal emojis) with 9 different and dark humored headlines on the reverse side.
Here was all I did:
Flags on awning.
Business card (front)
Business card (back).
I placed the business cards on every single car windshield for blocks surrounding the butcher. It took two days walking 5 miles per day.
The response was epic. Father’s Day weekend they were selling meat like hot cakes and a lot of new faces showed up. Fourth of July weekend they were selling out of items like they never had before. For the pirate butchers who are always prepared for anything, they were selling out.
I forewarned them that the campaign should generate a 15-20% increase in the following weeks. They didn’t believe me. Pirates have trust issues. Pirates don’t believe. Pirates seldom believe anything even when it is right in their faces.
I contacted them a week afterwards and they said they were ready to move to Phase 2. Good. This phase is $3,000.
I fashioned the next invoice for $3,000 and went in to collect a deposit and prepared for a brilliant social media campaign. What happened instead was a surprise but I should have expected it.
They berated me for an hour and a half, telling me that I had NOT DONE WHAT THEY ASKED, which was to do a Social Media campaign. I mentioned the problems with this. No one wants to stare at photo after photo of slabs of pink meat photographed 30 different cuts.
A full blown argument ensued. I didn’t back down. I never do. I was born and raised in Brooklyn in the 60s and 70s. We don’t back down no matter what. I can take a beating.
We proceeded with an argument which progressed into a full-on screaming match. It was me against the butcher pirates with bloody aprons, a hatchet and finely sharpened, honed, 14″ knives in hand.
All the employees came out from the back and were peeking through the heavy plastic curtains. They had probably never heard their employers so upset and screaming at the top of their lungs. I can really bring out the best or worse real in people. I know this about myself. But, I’m also tenacious and used to confrontation which is something they probably didn’t expect. They’re also Greek and Albanian which generally means they aren’t violent like the Italians or Spanish might be.
I turned the volume down a bit saying: “LISTEN. Don’t believe me and I don’t have to believe you BUT THE NUMBERS DON’T LIE.” One of the partners stormed downstairs, still yelling, with arms flailing about and emerged a few minutes later with a blue folder with their handwritten accounting records.
[ Wow. They’re actually going to let me see the numbers. Brilliant! ]
Trying to diffuse the mood further: “Gentlemen, we use mathematics to build a case for marketing and advertising efforts. Mathematics were invented by the Greeks!”
This didn’t help.
He showed me the June 2015-2016-2017 numbers by month. He said: “You see! Normal business growth!”
He was looking a 400K, 500K and 600K and not at finer tuned details like the second and third digits.
Here they are:
June 2015: $460K gross –
June 2016: $529K gross –
(+ $69K increase)
June 2017: $676K gross
(+ $147K increase)
2015 to 2016 was a normal 15% increase.
2016 to 2017 was a very 28% irregular increase as I predicted.
A 28% increase is NOT normal business growth according to their records.
The June 2017 totals showed a 28% increase OVER June 2016. This means my campaign generated a 13% increase this OVER last year’s numbers which is $87,800. I told then to expect a 15-20% increase based off the light research so I was off by 2%. Me, bad man.
The pirates didn’t fire me per se but they did threaten me with “We are going to tell our business friends, and we know many, NOT TO WORK with you… We’re NOT jealous of what you did… start the Instagram account and the Social Media and we’ll see how it goes.”
Ah, I see. The pirates thought I should be their lap dog. That’s unlikely. I’ve been there and did that. In fact, if I wanted to be a Dick, I could easily turn around and start working for their competition which is what my mentor Dick would have advised me to do. Not only that, but the $3,000 fee for a two month campaign will now cost them $12,000 (and they would still be ahead!). I turned and left never to return. But, thinking about pirates further, returning will be the fun part. I’ll wait until October and update this page entry.
However, something even stranger happened.