In praise of villagey companies and villagey marketers

Did I just invent those phrases? I suspect “villagey” is more often used as an insult, but I’m a bit in love with businesses that have a whiff of Good Life about them and dance to a different (Archers) tune.

I recently moved from a lively seaside new city, to a large gentle village that is trying very hard not to become a town. Nearly all of the shops are independent and closed on a Sunday. Things happen a bit more slowly and kindly. The people behind the counter take time to chat even if you don’t buy anything. They often bend the rules to keep customers happy, sometimes to the extent that I worry they’ll go out of business (at least once I’ve found myself offering to pay more than I’ve been asked for). But then I realise that they won’t, of course, because I go back, and I tell people and I spend more with them than I would if I drove to the nearest big town. And so it goes.

I’ve travelled just 28.2 miles but sometimes it feels I’ve gone at least 50 years back in marketing time, and the village effect is starting to rub off on me. Three months ago I began drafting a slightly snarky, clever post about the use of metaphor in the development sector: moan moan, useful observation, provocative question, etc. But the village has got to me and I can’t bring myself to publish it.

Instead I’ve decided to start a series of posts that celebrate good villagey marketing. Businesses large and small that treat customers, staff and suppliers, like members of their local community. As though these might be people they’ll need to ask for help from one day. Businesses that make life nicer for their customers without having to refer to instructions for how to do that. That make (some) money, because what they’re doing is kind, clever and useful.

I’m starting with someone who last week taught me how to make lots of dough.  Embed from Getty Images There’s lots to love about Anna’s Kitchen

Last Friday I took part in a workshop learning to make Scandinavian bread at Anna’s Kitchen. Where is it? In Anna’s kitchen of course. Four students, lots of flour and yeast and spices and fun. What do I love about the marketing of Anna’s Kitchen? The branding is authentic and memorable. It’s tied to a person which means if you like Anna (and her kitchen!), then you’ll probably like an Anna’s Kitchen workshop. Anna loves bread and she really seems to love helping people learn how to make it. She’s a kind teacher too – while we tried our hands at three types of bread, she made and baked a spare batch of each so anyone who had a baking disaster wouldn’t go home empty-handed (we didn’t – yay us!).

For any marketing students reading, Anna demonstrates excellent integrated marketing – all 7 Ps are present and correct and work together beautifully (resisting puns about ingredients and recipes there…). I’m sure there are things the business could do to try to increase profit margins but I suspect these would be at the cost of the joy and value the participants get from the workshops, and the resulting effusive positive word-of-mouth. How did I hear about Anna’s Kitchen? A friend told me. And now I’m telling my friends.

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