I recently returned from a two-week trek in Nepal. While we spent most of our time in the remote Upper Mustang region of the country, cut off from electricity, clean water and the Internet (everyone should experience this “get-away-from-it-all” experience!), I did spend several days in Kathmandu. And I left with a few wonderful marketing lessons—some good and some not so good. Hopefully you’ll be able to recognize and leverage the good ones.
Appeal to All the Senses
Even though the streets were filled with vendors hawking identical wares, each seemed to find a unique way to position their product to try and attract tourists. “Dear Human, Just feel me,” begged one handwritten sign clipped to a collection of knitted scarves. Naturally I stopped and reached out to stroke their silken fibers, only to be accosted by the shopkeeper who tried to lure me inside to see the hundreds of other choices he had to offer.
Is That USDA Endorsed?
As we strolled down one alleyway, we passed several shops where owners were cutting meat … on a table … in the open … next to every car, motorcycle, rickshaw or pedestrian who passed by within inches. Since we knew they weren’t dicing up cattle, we assumed it might be goat. But since it wasn’t labeled, we had no idea. All we knew is we were instant vegetarians.
The Only Sign That Mattered
The Nepalese drink a lot of tea, and I did come to enjoy Marsala Milky Tea, so I’m not complaining. But while wandering the streets one day, we came across a very small illy sign on the window of a restaurant that was closed. Peering inside we saw a glorious site—an Italian espresso machine! I just about wept out loud. We quickly noted that they opened at 7am and set our alarm clocks accordingly, racing to the door to taste that first sip of café latte heaven, and we were not disappointed. After returning home, I quickly visited the illy website, posted on their Facebook page and became a huge fan. I now know what I’ll be asking Santa for this year.
Two days after our illy sighting, we discovered the hotel next to ours also boasted an illy sign. (Although it was so small we had missed it, despite passing by the hotel at least two dozen times!) We rallied a few other trekkers to join us for our morning habit and we entered The Royal Penguin Restaurant. After placing our order we noticed a multi-page, spiral-bound tent card on the table with the headline “Staff sociability.” Curious, the copy read as follows (this is verbatim):
We launched a new service in our restaurant. You can choose the intensity of staff communication.
The options are:
- High sociability—the staff will be delighted to maintain a conversation on any topic, to make a joke or to share some interesting news with you.
- Medium sociability—the staff will be happy to discuss any details of your order or answer your questions without raising any other subjects.
- ‘Stealth mode’—the staff will provide brief answers in a friendly manner, but will never speak to you first.
To make the service work, you will have to choose the option from this banner.
I kid you not.
Then, you can flip over the various pages to select your sociability mode, and place the tent card where the server can see it. Being Smart Alec’s, we chose ‘High Staff Sociability’ and placed it prominently on our table, anxiously awaiting the outcome.
About five minutes later, the server, a local girl of about 25, arrived with our coffee drinks and carefully placed them in front of each of us. We smiled at her gratefully and looked at her with a smile to indicate our willingness to engage in a conversation. She said nothing.
“We’d like to hear a joke,” someone prompted.
She stared at us, clearly not understanding.
We pointed to the sociability tent card and gleefully pointed out our desire to engage in “High Staff Sociability.” She shook her head, not comprehending what we were saying or doing, shrugged and moved on to the next table.
Disappointed, we returned to our lattes. Clearly this was an interesting sales and marketing ploy gone completely awry.
The only good thing to come out of my marketing observations in Kathmandu is the tent card, now prominently displayed on my desk. Too bad my staff can’t seem to follow the guidelines either, as my ‘Stealth Mode’ has been repeatedly ignored. Damn penguins.