This is a great story, from my hometown of Montreal.
Feigang Fei is the owner of a Chinese restaurant called Aunt Dai. It has all the usual dishes you’d expect… from Imperial Rolls, to Orange Beef, and General Tao Chicken.
Going by the choices on the menu, there’s nothing particularly special about either the restaurant or its menu.
What is different is that when you open the menu, you’ll find not only the names, pictures and prices of the dishes, but also some thoughts from Feigang Fei.
Here is what he says about their Orange Beef…
“Comparing to our General Tao Chicken, this one is not THAT good. Anyway, I am not big fan of North American Chinese food and it’s your call.”
Interesting. How many marketers would ask the owner of a business to tell people their products are not THAT good?
Here’s what he says about their Satay Sauce Beef…
“This is new on our menu, I did NOT have chance to try this one yet. According to a lot of customers, this one is very popular, I still don’t have chance to taste it. Looks like I should spend more time eating in my own restaurant.”
A public relations nightmare! He doesn’t even taste his own food. Worse still, he makes it public!
If he had an ad agency or public relations company, you can image how they would squirm.
After all, this breaks every rule in the book. What could be the upside to a business owner talking down his own products or services?
It makes no sense.
Except… this is one of Montreal’s best Chinese restaurants.
And people love the place not only the food, but for the honesty and transparency of the owner and his menu.
Why trash-talking your own products can work…
When I shared this story on the Conversational Copywriting Facebook page, Jen Cole wrote:
“We are so starved (no pun intended!) for honesty, we’ll buy food from someone who says “it’s not that good but it’s your call.” Guess truth is the new universal language.”
“We are so starved for honesty.”
What a great insight.
And it’s true. We all know that almost all marketing is a tapestry of small white lies. Every ad or promotion is making a product or service seem better than it really is.
That persistent flood of white lies is exhausting. It’s a burden. We know we have to dig down under the fancy sales language to find the real truth.
It takes work to peel back all that BS.
So when a restaurant owner is open and honest with us, it’s a huge relief. We can relax.
And maybe we’ll try the Orange Beef, just to see if it isn’t that good. Out of curiosity.
And I bet we’ll love it.
And then we’ll think, “Wow, if this is his idea of not that good!”
All that said, honesty doesn’t spread by magic.
Feigang Fei has been writing this way about his food for years now.
But nothing much happened for a long time.
Customers would smile when they read the menu. Maybe they’d tell their friends.
But nothing dramatic.
Then a local newspaper heard about it and turned up at their door. Followed by one of the city’s top TV stations. The story hit prime time and went viral.
I suppose there is a message there.
First, find a unique way to promote your business.
But, however great the idea, don’t rely on it exploding into the market all on its own.
Even the best ideas need exposure.
Perhaps that’s the takeaway for the ad agency or PR firm.
Don’t mess with the message. But do get that TV station to turn up a few years sooner.
And yes, this has everything to do with Conversational Copywriting.
The conversational approach to sales is built on a foundation of transparency and honesty.
The sales page isn’t THAT good…
But I think you’ll find the course itself hits the spot just fine.