IMC on the half shell

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The Walrus and Carpenter has received national attention

Here in this little corner of Seattle known as Ballard, USA, the local bumper stickers remind us that this is simply a “sleepy little drinking village with a fishing problem.” So, imagine our surprise when one of the newest restaurants in town garnered a mention in the New York Times and showed up on the Best New Restaurants list in Bon Appétit. With my parents visiting from Tennessee, I figured this oyster bar would be the perfect place for a relaxing lunch on their last day in town. Perfect! Except they aren’t open for lunch.

I hopped online to check out the reviews on Urbanspoon and came up with another option: a waterfront restaurant that I would have guessed was just a tourist trap where you pay for the view. The 90% positive rating suggested otherwise and, sure enough, we had a great lunch complete with a dozen fresh, delicious oysters.

Accolades from a newspaper or magazine still mean something, to be sure, but a decade ago they would have been virtually the only source of information or opinion about restaurant quality and service. A week ago, we had Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Yelp, and OpenTable. Yesterday, Google announced it’s joining the fray with its acquisition of Zagat. Popular opinion can now guide our restaurant choices whether in a big city like Seattle or a small town like Connell, WA (pop. 5,150).

Yelp helped us to find this excellent small-town diner while traveling last month

The question is: what will guide us to the most useful, reliable source of information? If Urbanspoon is a review database that also takes reservations and OpenTable is a reservation service that also features reviews, then which is the best source of information for planning your next meal out of the house? Bottom line: if you worked for one of these services, how would you differentiate yours from all of the others?

As a student in the IMC@WVU program, you’ll have the opportunity to answer questions like this from a variety perspectives and using the entire spectrum of IMC tools: research and analysis, customer behavior, creative strategy, storytelling, and more. If you’re already in the program, what types of challenges have you tackled for a local, national, or global brand?

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5 Responses to “IMC on the half shell”

  1. Jelise Snyder Ballon Says:

    Great blog post, Barry! I know in the IMC 613 – Brand Equity and Management class we got to do an exercise very similar to what you pose above. We were able to take a “challenger” brand and do a full audit of the brand, looking at how it could/should differentiate itself amongst its key competitors. It’s a tough course, but you learn so much that will carry over to just about any marketing job. Afterall, no matter what our specific job funciton we all have a brand we’re trying to support, and understanding what makes our company or organization’s brand stand-out from the competition is key to successful marketing.

    • Barry Says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Jelise. I used to work in a small office with no marketing department, but we still had an incredibly strong brand cultivated by both staff and customers.

  2. Conrad from Urbanspoon.com Says:

    Barry – here is the trick (and the most important thing for diners and restaurants to consider). . . . who plays best on mobile? Mobile devices and apps are becoming the de facto way people are finding restaurants. Then think about Urbanspoon – over 20 million app downloads.

    -Conrad from Urbanspoon

    • Barry Says:

      Conrad, the fact that you responded tells me that Urbanspoon isn’t putting all of its eggs in the mobile basket. Looks like social media monitoring and engagement are important aspects of the strategy, too. Any others you’d care to share?
      Thanks for chiming in.

      • Conrad from Urbanspoon.com Says:

        There’s lots to talk about, but not much that I can uncover . . . for now. I suspect you’ll see this space evolving fairly significantly in the next 24 months. Such is the life of managing a big brand with a small budget. 🙂

        Be well,
        Conrad

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