Is Word of Mouth Enough?

08.29.2013 | Christie Melby

In order to celebrate one of our colleague’s embarking on a journey to San Francisco, the whole Communiqué PR team recently visited Seattle’s Fremont Brewing Company. It was my first time there, but before I even walked through the door, I could feel the energy from the outdoor seating area. It was full of smiling people enjoying a glass of beer on a sunny summer evening not far from Lake Union.

Picture Courtesy of Fremont Brewing Company

While we were appreciating the atmosphere and, of course, cold glasses of beer, something in our conversation sparked a debate. We noticed that there were no signs outside the brewery to identify it as the Fremont Brewing Company. The only identifier was the label printed on the glass. So why wasn’t the label on a large sign outside the building, informing Seattle of this amazing spot? As a student studying marketing and an aspiring PR professional, I was confused. I know that I haven’t been in the business long, but this goes against what I have learned about marketing. Businesses usually aim to gain exposure in order to create a strong brand, which then influences people’s purchasing decisions. However, Fremont Brewing Company didn’t even have a sign – how could this build a brand with a clearly strong following?

Lucky for us, we discovered we were sitting next to the owner, Matt Lincecum. Naturally, we asked about the lack of signage. I was particularly intrigued because I drive past the brewery every night on my way home from the office. On more than one occasion, I’ve looked for a sign to connect a name to this spot that never fails to draw a crowd (even on a cloudy day).

Matt shared his reasoning behind this: The lack of signage sparks people’s curiosity about the brewery and instantly creates an exclusive feel that makes people want to stop by and become a part of it. As he explained this, I realized he had executed this unconventional approach perfectly. I personally and completely fell into Matt’s trap! I constantly mention the “mysterious place” to my friends, wanting to know what was drawing in such a crowd, and suggesting we try it out.

My next question was, if you didn’t happen to pass the brewery, how would you know it existed? The answer in the case of Fremont Brewing Co. is, according to Matt, word of mouth. Matt has harnessed the power of customer references to succeed in a growing industry in which there is plenty of competition.

After seeing the prosperity of Fremont Brewing Company, I have a few questions about the approaches I’ve learned in my marketing classes. Clearly, there are different paths to successfully marketing a business and creating a strong brand. Matt’s unconventional approach, disregarding signage and traditional marketing, has been hugely successful – the constant crowds outside of the brewery are a testament to this. So the question becomes, if you have a well-received and successful product, service or business, do you need to spend time and effort gaining exposure? Or can word of mouth and intrigue suffice? Please share your comments below – we’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

On a separate note, all of us at Communiqué PR – now that we’re fans and likely regular visitors –  would like to thank Fremont Brewing company for a great evening and especially Matt Lincecum for sharing some of his business tips. If you are ever looking for a PR team to further enhance your already successful word-of-mouth approach, we’d love to work with you. 


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Filed under: Branding, COMMUNIQUÉ PR, Consumer, Execution, Reputation Management, Strategy

2 Comments

  1. Chris Mayhew says:

    I think this is a really interesting topic of discussion. I can see how this approach can work but you need to be very confident in your product/brand to be able to pull it off. Intrigue is naturally in place around a new establishment but you really have to take advantage of this and show everyone what a good thing it is otherwise your ‘word of mouth alone’ strategy could fall flat.

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