Our very expensive marketing strategy

I’ve just completed an in-depth study into The Stray Bean’s marketing strategy. The main finding is this : the amount we’ve spent on advertising since 2017 is precisely 90,13€ per year. Including social media.

I was rather shocked. I thought it was less than that. I’d forgotten that we had two years where we completely lashed out, with costs blowing out to around 250€ in each one. To be fair, they were exceptions – the Covid years of 2020 and 2021 when we were in a mad panic trying everything we could to get people to buy take-away coffees (a very tough ask in France, especially when there’s no-one in the street).

Let’s face it, for any self-respecting commercial enterprise, investing less than 100€ a year in advertising could be seen as a sign of management incompetence and not very consistent with any globalisation ambitions we may have. So, I feel the need to justify it. And seeing we don’t have a board asking me the tough questions, this is the only place I could find to do it.

There are a few possible explanations. It could be because I once listened to Freakonomics Radio podcast episodes 440 and 441, in which they quoted the latest, most robust research ever done on the effectiveness of advertising. It concluded that the benefits of advertising in terms of short-term sales increases are around one twentieth of what everyone thought they were. It’s as if 95% of all advertising dollars spent is a total waste of money while only 5% is doing what it’s supposed to.

It could also be that I heard on the radio once (I haven’t checked the sources but I’m sure it was a very reputable radio station which runs very few ads) that 1,000 euros in the price of every new car sold in Europe is to cover the cost of advertising.

Put those two pieces of information together and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the main purpose of advertising is to increase the price of everything we buy.

I’m quite pleased I’ve been able find such cold, hard facts that clearly support my total lack of marketing strategy, but the problem is that it really doesn’t explain anything. You see, I only came across all that info after having already done nothing for quite some time.

The fact is, it just never seemed right. Advertising, promotional campaigns with slickly produced videos, the upselling of customers at every opportunity, Black Friday discounts – it’s all very corporate! But what drives us is not what drives the big chains. We’re a coffee shop first and a business second, not the other way around. The Stray Bean is not where you embrace the corporate world but where you leave it behind. Each to their own.

In response, you might calmy ask: “But if you’re passionate about something, why not advertise it?” I really should have a good answer for that, but I’m not sure I do, despite my heart-felt monologues. You might be right. Lucky I’ve never had a board putting me on the spot like that. But if I did, at least now I’ve got Freakonomics Radio on my side.