A few weeks ago I started a digital marketing course with Shaw Academy. It’s been a load a fun and I’m learning a fair bit and having fun with some of the examples of marketing fails and wins. This week’s assignment about the controversy surrounding Dublin’s White Moose Cafe has been quite interesting, as it blurs the line between publicity and good marketing. It has often been said that bad publicity is still publicity. But is there still a point to publicity if it doesn’t draw people in to purchase your product?
For those who didn’t read about it last year, The White Moose Cafe in Dublin came under fire for posting negative social media comments about Vegans. The first post can be seen here:[fb_embed_post href=”https://www.facebook.com/WhiteMooseCafe/posts/1638398693107407/” width=”550″/]
In itself this is not an unreasonable request. My partner and I are Vegan and if we’re going somewhere new we will always call in advance to make sure that they can cater for Vegans. If not, it’s fine, we’ll just find somewhere else, but we are both firm believers of it being polite to make sure that someone can cater to our choices. The issue with the post came with the use of the words “idiosyncratic dietary requirements” and the rude tone of the prose. Instead of putting in a polite, and completely reasonable request, The White Moose Cafe instead chose to alienate an ever growing percentage of the public.
Everyone has their own reasons for going Vegan, and I’m a firm believer in your choice being just that, YOUR choice. We find that most people who are interested will ask us why we’re Vegan at which point we’re happy to have a conversation about it. But we’re simply not the kind of people to make a big song and dance about it. We are Vegan, we don’t identify as Vegan. It is an ethical choice and not a lifestyle. We’re the same as everyone else, we just choose not to eat meat and dairy. I know for many Vegans this isn’t the case; they identify with it as a lifestyle and live a breathe the subculture of Veganism. These are a very small yet vocal minority however, which unfortunately brings the term ‘Vegan’ in to constant disrepute.
In the case of The White Moose Cafe one tiny facebook post blew up in to something completely inconceivable. People all over the world now know the name of a local Dublin cafe which would otherwise have stayed local. The ‘Vegans’ took a quite unreasonable stance and proceeded to give the cafe unfounded negative reviews, and more and more of the general public gave counter reviews and started hating vegans even more. This ultimately culminated in the manager of The White Moose Cafe posting on his facebook jokingly (we hope) that all Vegans entering his premises would be shot on site.
The true fact of the matter is, Paul Stenson, the manager of The White Moose Cafe is now somewhat of an internet celebrity. He has his supporters
and detractors, but people all over the internet know his name and name of his cafe. In a later facebook post he thanked Vegans for all the free publicity they were providing him.
But the real question is, how effective will this publicity be in getting him what one assumes most restauranteurs seek, customers? Traditionally it has been quite difficult for Vegans to find places able to cater for them, although this is changing very rapidly. Because of this, there are hundreds of Vegan forums providing info on places to eat, buy groceries, and even cruelty free cosmetics. If you need somewhere to go last minute you’ll usually go to one of these sites or forums to ensure you don’t have to call ahead, and the recommendations of other Vegans as to who can provide interesting and tasty food for Vegans that is more than just the salad that a lot of places will give you goes a long way. When travelling, Vegans will go out of their way to eat at a location that they have been told will provide good Vegan friendly fare. Can the same be said of the regular joes who are enjoying following the facebook and twitter storm? Probably not. It’s a fun thing to follow for a while, but no one is going to go out of their way to visit the place that hates Vegans, unless they have a completely irrational hatred of someone’s dietary choices (in which case they should probably seek psychiatric help).
So, instead of dealing with an initially small misunderstanding in a way which would ensure that an ever growing part of the population would purposefully seek out his establishment, Paul Stenson has instead ensured that they, and any ‘vegan sympathisers’ for lack of a better term, will never go anywhere near his cafe. At worst, he has lost a large number of customers, at best he has preserved the status quo. Sure he won’t miss the Vegans who won’t eat there, but I would certainly argue that even if his business hasn’t declined, he certainly hasn’t generated any new leads. Their branding is absolutely superb. Their food pictures are professional, and their aesthetic is visually stunning. It seems a shame that all this is wasted on a manager who has fallen victim to his own hubris.