Conor's Bandon Blog

Local stuff and other stuff from a blow-in

Irish food producers and the Cluetrain Manifesto

I know absolutely nothing about marketing as I discovered in my first startup enterprise when it took me a year to notice that there was no “U” in our “USP”.

But over the past year I have been watching what Hugh McLeod has been doing with the idea of The Global Microbrand. Hugh is most famous for using blogging to create worldwide interest and demand for the products of a Saville Row tailor. Hugh is a disciple of “The Cluetrain Manifesto” which is a fantastic rant about where markets are going and how they are changing. The Number 1 thesis of the manifesto is that Markets are conversations. The amazing thing about it is that it was written in 1999. Hugh has a Hughtrain page which has some great thoughts on this area too.

More recently, and of more interest to me, are his efforts to to something similar with Stormhoek, a small South African wine company. In this case, one of the approaches is to send out free bottles of wine to bloggers and hope they blog about it. It appears to be working extremely well. There have probably been more words written about Stormhoek in the UK and Ireland in the past few months than about all of the Chilean producers combined.

The reason I mention all of this is due to a simple thing which happened last week. I blogged about Ummera Smoked Rashers; Anthony Creswell, who owns Ummera, spotted the blog and posted a reply. A few messages passed back and forth and I mentioned that I had never spotted their smoked eel in any of the shops. What does Anthony do? He drops a pack into Urru (a local gourmet food shop which stocks his smoked chicken and salmon)! I was gobsmacked.

Now, you may think this is just a bit of good customer service with a firm providing product to a local consumer (Ummera is only 10km or so from our house). But I think something far more important started here which is right at the heart of The Cluetrain Manifesto. Quite simply, this would never have happened like this without the “Read/Write Web” as it is known. Sure, I could have mailed Ummera and asked who stocks their eel and they could have dropped some into Urru for me. The gain for them? One extra customer.

But funnily enough, some people other than my family and Marky Mark actually read this blog and maybe some think to themselves “I’d like a bit of that” and they check out the Ummera web page and they realise Ummera ship world-wide, and they order some and it blows them away with flavour and they blog it and someone else reads their blog and and and and. All from one simple posting on a blog on a machine in California written by paddy in Bandon.

Ummera, Dunn’s, Clonakilty Black Pudding and a raft of other high quality food producers in Ireland are already global micro-brands so they are not trying to create brand awareness from scratch. But imagine if Ummera or Gubbeen or Dunn’s or Cashel Blue or Ballymaloe had their own blog? Imagine if that blog talked about the things they were trying to develop and their problems and their successes and recipes and ideas and questions and announcements and 1-to-1 customer feedback?

Foodies would go nuts for this kind of “inside track” and tell their friends who would love it and the foodie blogs would be abuzz and others would seek out the product and all of a sudden you have almost free global viral marketing. A simple seed would be for any foodie to post on eGullet that “such and such a producer has a new food blog and I think it is really interesting”. When I did a posting on eGullet to flag my review of “A Pig in Day with Hugh and Ray”, my blog readership sky-rocketed. Imagine if it finally came full circle and got picked up by the MSM (mainstream media) and they did an article in the Washington Post about this small Irish company with gloabl reach due to blogging……

There are many others who can explain this idea better than I. A recent interview by Tom Raftery of Steve Rubel who is a professional PR guy and blogger covers the power of blogging for advertising purposes extremely well.

Hell, I am surprised that some of the bigger global players are not trying this already at a national level to make themselves appear more “local”. They already do it with brands (like Campbells Soup owning Erin), why not with “The Cup of Soup Blog, live from Thurles”? There is a danger that this could be done badly like many of the big US corporate blogs where the blog is little more than another outlet for press releases. But done well, you start a conversation with your customers and find out far more than a million Lansdowne Surveys will ever tell you about what they like and don’t like.

Clearly the number of eyeballs is not very high yet but it is growing at a phenomenal rate. And the profile of blog readers is probably exactly the sort of ABC1’s that all marketeers want interested in their product.

But as I said, I know zero about marketing so feel free to ignore everything I just wrote and check out the picture of the lobster in my next post.

[tags]The Cluetrain Manifesto, Global Microbrands, The HughTrain, Stormhoek, Ummera, Dunn’s, Campbells Soup, viral marketing, Irish Food, Steve Rubel, Tom Raftery[/tags]


  1. ‘Nother great post.
    Ballymaloe sort of has a blog in Darina’s letters, but you do have to go to the site and read the things and they aren’t linked. When I was there they seemed to have a bit of a backward attitude to technology, not to mention a certain spot of trouble they had over computers. . . .I never did get a great connection there. I always had to beetle into Middleton for any major web stuff. In my experience rural Ireland was lacking in all connectivity three years ago. I hope things are changing for the better.

  2. It is improving slowly. Broadband is now available via a variety of routes including some wireless options for those too far away from telephone exchanges. We have a 1MB link but I’d be much happier with 8MB.

    I read Darina in the Irish Examiner paper every Saturday. Always something interesting to say. You can grab her column on if you are interested.

  3. Conor, thanks for the link and the kind words. Tom.

  4. Thanks for the tip about the Examiner. I’d stopped reading it online awhile ago. Time to check it out again.

  5. That’s great to see. I’m surprised that they aren’t thinking about starting their own blog or promotion. You’d be surprised about the amount of effort that some food companies put into trying out their products: coupons, testing in supermarkets, etc. Sending out a sample is about as cheap as you get and there’s no better time to run a blogger promotion because it’s so novel. The Nokia n90 promotion will be the tipping point for this sort of thing IMO.

  6. Just so I don’t create any misconception – Anthony made the eel available to me in Urru for purchase, I would never have expected a small company like his to provide it for free.

    I was more than happy to pay the few bob as I had never seen the product available before and was really interested in trying it out. And in any case, it does mean that any opinion I offer is not coloured by something being free.

    Having said that, I didn’t hold back on negative comments on the free bottle of wine from Stormhoek!

    Wait a sec, those N90’s are for free? Dammit, I’m even subscribed to that blog and I didn’t realise. That’s what I get for speed reading 400 blogs a day. Time to prune Bloglines.

  7. Bloglines ugh!

    By the way there’s nothing wrong with something being free.

  8. I have a simple test of any RSS reader; import the OPML file from Bloglines, start trying to read the lastest posts and see how many mouse clicks it takes and how long I am waiting for screens to refresh.

    I’ve tried every desktop-based and web-based reader going and the only one which can handle 400 feeds without having me wildly scrolling up and down is the good old-fashioned, frames-based, not very pretty, not a piece of AJAX in sight, Bloglines.

    I want to dislike it but the core functionality has yet to be bettered from the point of view of efficient reading of masses of posts.

    In Tom’s podcast interview of Steve Rubel, the only bit I could not fathom was his liking of the Google reader. It is a UI travesty.

    Oh, and I love free – 90% of the software I use on a daily basis is free. I’ll never refuse a free lunch but I also like paying people for their efforts when I think they are deserved.

  9. Very interesting site and thank you for your insights! I am new to this, but set up a blog recently for the reasons you mention (I am co-owner of Murphys Ice Cream, which you will find at Urru…) I guess it will take a while to the the hang of it, but your tips make it easier!

  10. I’m thrilled that you have started a blog. I have subscribed to the RSS feed.

    I’ve already sampled your fabulous ice-cream both in Urru and in Killarney.

    I actually mentioned the Killarney cafe as being the highlight of our visit to the town!

    I’m just a consumer but I hope my opinionated uninformed brain-dumps are of some help to food producers whose stuff I buy.

    I’m going to do a separate post about your blog tomorrow.

  11. “Just a consumer”??? Am I missing something here? The opinions of consumers should matter most to every company and certainly do with us.

    We’re lucky enough to have constant contact with customers through our shops, although unfortunately Irish customers can be a bit shy about speaking up. As far as I’m concerned, you can never get enough feedback because that’s how you improve…

    I’m delighted you liked the ice cream. I found your earlier post after I wrote the first comment. Thanks and keep up the opinions…

  12. I’m probably the worst when it comes to complaining. I often do that awful Irish thing of not complaining but never returning. Having said that, I do laud people to the high heavens to their faces when I like what they’ve done.

  13. Pingback: Conor’s Bandon Blog » Murphy’s Awesome Ice-Cream now blogging