"A brand is not built by acquiring customers; it is built by keeping them," Nick Wreden writes in ProfitBrand, selected by Strategy + Business as the best marketing book of 2005. (Honorable mentions include All Marketers Are Liars, Brand Hijack, How Customers Think (not new but s+b still likes it in 2005.)
The University Coffee Cafe on bustling University Avenue is very inviting with it's sunny golden tones and high ceilings. It makes me nostaglic for cafes in Paris or Vienna. You're in the middle of a meeting and your guest whips out their laptop to check on the location of next appointment or perhaps share their latest Flickr upload of their kids with you.
And in that instant, the minute the screen flickers (or earlier) you will truly feel in Paris as a scolding waiter descends on you. Laptops? Strictly forboden. "One minute - (purty) please?" A stiff shake of the head. I'm whisked away from a vibrant salon to Nazi Germany. Things are worse in the late afternoon when one is scurried off to make way for their dinner crowd. Four tries: I won't be back.
I see I'm not alone (thank god for customer reviews): "I love the space of the cafe: high ceiling, big open windows, and sidewalk tables, but nothing can redeem this place from its group of lousy staff." And that's coming from one of the restrained reviewers.
It's not quietness but "buzz" that draws doctoral student Alexandra Haugh to Coupa Café to work on her dissertation about the 17th century Russian colonialization of Siberia. A connoisseur of both coffee and ambiance, she reflected on what makes Coupa one of only three shops in town where she can work... [Outlining what places Coupa on her list, she continues:]
She wrapped her fingers around the ceramic cup, cradling the perfect cappuccino in her hands. "This is sacred to me," she smiled. - "Caffeine Scene", Palo Alto Weekly, 11/16/05
You can smell the freshness when you enter Coupa. The ripe coffee scent blends with temptation from sweet delicacies, like cakes, tarts, scones and bonbons. Mellow chatter bounces off the yellow mustard and brick red walls as patrons, employees and the owners catch up and mingle. Some curl up on oversized couches near the fireplace in back. Others work on laptops, taking advantage of the free WiFi.
Nancy Coupal prides herself on the comfortable atmosphere. “I painted the walls myself,” she says. - "The Perfect Cup," The Wave Magazine (this review is an incredibly loving testimonial)
Strategy + Business' selection for best book in the strategy category was Blue Ocean Strategy: "While most businesses are stuck competing within boundaries and rules set by others, questioning such assumptions can lead to unprecedented value propositions for customers, and hence blue oceans."
While not a classic "blue ocean", the Coupals have a distinctive product and service in a Starbucks-endeared nation: "Venezuelan coffee is not easy to come by in the States, so the Coupals arranged to have a 1,000 pounds of beans – from 18 Venezuelan farms hand-chosen by Jean Paul – shipped every month to their Palo Alto café." Everyone raves about the coffee. And the white corn Venezuelan griddlecakes. (Yeah, the whole product matters. That is the brand, AT&T. And that encompasses the experience too.)
What I noticed even more than the coffee was a warmth that resonates. Reading the review I see that it's the Coupal family's personality that pervades the space. Here conversations cackle with a magnetic energy - yes, over laptops. (With free Wifi.) Unlike other cafes that draw in mostly solo poets and entrepreneurs hunched over keyboards, this is a prime meeting spot.
Coupa didn't do it with advertising. And the media attention followed - not lead - enthusiastic word of mouth. A while back Hugh tells us about a favorite juice joint:
"Wow," I quietly gushed, "Your stuff is the best. It really is..."
"Sure it is," said the guy. "That's because we make it with reverence."
The publicist for the bestselling Tuesdays with Morrie shares, "Tuesdays with Morrie is a classic "word-of-mouth" book -- it got great media coverage, but when people bought it and read it, it affected them deeply, and they would talk about it, recommend it, and buy it for others as gifts." If you've read Tuesdays, you know that's its secret: It stirs you, penetrates you because the product was assembled with reverence.
What I want most of all is resonance, something that will linger for a little while in Constant Reader's mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it on the shelf. - Stephen King, On Writing
Bonus: WOMMA has released its Word of Mouth Basic Training (WOMBAT) today, the site features a new blog, podcast series, and companion email newsletter.
Since a secret of buzz is having a buzz-worthy product, I absolutely cannot wait to get Douglas Rushkoff's book, Get Back in the Box: Innovation from the Inside Out, although I doubt I'll have time to read it before I head off on the 15th to Thailand on the first stop of the tsunami anniversary live-blogging tour.
Check out the series with Rushkoff at Fortune Magazine's Business Innovation blog: Everything Matters; Goodness, Outside and In; Work as Play; Open Source Everything; The Nintendo Brand as Social Currency; How the Scarcity Model Curtails Innovation; Social Currency; and The Demographic Trap.
p.s. The photo is of a "perfect" cappuchino at Coupa from Palo Alto Weekly.