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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]