Marketing is in the details

Diners at one of the world’s finest restaurants, the three Michelin-starred Fat Duck, who order a new dish called “Sound of the Sea” will receive not only a plate of exquisite seafood and seaweed served on a sand-like tapioca pudding mixture but also an iPod with which to listen to a recording of waves breaking on the shore.

Apparently eating seafood with the sounds of the sea in your ear makes the food stronger and saltier.

The restauranteur who runs the Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal, is branching out in “experimental” dining and plans to roll out meals that require 3D glasses and atomiser sprays.

This fun little story gives me three insights into marketing

1. Product is king.

2. Marketing is about the details.

3. Marketing starts at the product. This doesn’t mean marketing is king; product is always king.

A great product with a compelling story will trump any flashy ad-campaign or game-based micro-site through pure word of mouth. It may not be the instant hit companies geared around quarterly results and product cycles are looking for but it will be a hit.

6 Responses to Marketing is in the details

  1. Judy Gombita says:

    I suspect that this is a newfangled take (i.e., marketing ploy) on the “dark restaurants” concept, re: modifying one sense in order to enhance another. (Although I suspect *not seeing* the food probably forces one to concentrate on it more than listening to some waves crashing).

    When visiting Berlin a couple of years ago, I tried to get a visit to a dark restaurant on the (negotiated) agenda:

    http://www.unsicht-bar-berlin.de/unsicht-bar-berlin-v2/en/html/home_2_experience.html.

    Alas, my “word of mouth marketing” on how wonderful the experience could be fell on…deaf ears.

    I have a feeling an iPoded Fat Duck (or seafood dish) would be greeted with equal skepticism and resistance. Ditto 3D-glasses and atomiser sprays. Just bring on some good food and conversation, will ya?

  2. neilperkin says:

    This is an interesting story. Heston Blumenthal is known as being a man on a mission toward culinary (and sensual) perfection. This seems a little gimicky but hey, like you say product is king and the marketing bit is in the detail…

  3. I’ve just drafted a piece re Heston in our new magazine for Motor Industry PR folk (as an example of celebrity endorsement as he has worked with BMW). His core philosophy of “the psychology of flavour” is interesting and we shouldn’t knock the aural senses. One quote of his is fascinating. Apparently they offered crab icecream which people found too sweet with a main dish, but loved it when it was renamed as frozen crab bisque.

  4. Judy Gombita says:

    As discussed offline, it WAS Heston Blumenthal that Joanne Kates wrote so admiringly about last year. Happily, the article is still available online:

    “Seven wonders of the world: Food”
    Respect your ingredients, writes Globe food critic Joanne Kates, and you will reap delicious rewards. Whether it’s local mozzarella in Italy or bacon-and-eggs ice cream at The Fat Duck in England, this ideal rules in the world’s culinary capitals

    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20060428.wwonderfood0429/EmailBNStory/specialTravel/>

  5. Ed Lee says:

    Just to clarify on Judy’s rather ominous, “as discussed offline”, we were discussing whether the decision to offer iPods with a certain dish was truly a product play or just a marketing play.

    my take is that blumenthal’s focus has always been on making the product remarkable – crab icecream/frozen crab bisque or even the latest sardine on toast sorbet are great examples – and that the PR/additional marketing benefits from the remarkableness are *just* very welcome side effects from producing a Purple Cow or the Seth effect.

    Judy’s take is that it’s just a marketing idea to generate some press.

    What do you think? Is this a marketing or a product play.

  6. Judy Gombita says:

    Yeesh. I didn’t mean it to sound “ominous,” especially as the discussion was merely a debate, not an argument.

    How about calling it “a dish as performance art?” That might get some ink. (As I think having an iPod playing during a restaurant meal is decidedly anti-social, I suggested this culinary “adventure” be targeted to the solo diner.)

    (But as I also said not-ominiously offline…unless he’s putting ground-up iPod dust into the dish, I don’t think it’s “product” play.)

    Ed plans to monitor how long this dish (or others with a musical accompaniments) remain on the menu. The proof will be in the long-term pudding. Ta ra.

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