Ask any business owner if they’d like tens of thousands of potential customers who ‘love’ their business. People ready and eager to buy from them. I’m sure every one of them would say yes.

In a kind of restaurant owner utopia, that’s exactly what Paul Stenson accidentally experienced for the White Moose Cafe.

Up until 12th August 2015 the Cafe was just like any other restaurant, when an awkward customer started a chain of events that propelled the cafe into the limelight.

The customer’s complaint kick-started an intensive 8-week flurry of social media activity. Going truly ‘viral’ the restaurant (located in Dublin, Ireland) reached countries as far as New Zealand, Australia, USA and Germany. They even made the front pages of Reddit, Imgur and Yahoo.

The restaurant’s Facebook page grew a fan base in the tens of thousands and received over 15,000 five star reviews. Although the initial ‘buzz’ has died down, Paulie and his team are still reaping the rewards. Some fans are even pledging to travel huge distances to visit the cafe.

You’d think some kind of celebrity news had occurred, or something ‘amazing’ had been discovered. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It all started because a vegan wasn’t happy with the limited choice of options available on the menu.

While this situation was far from contrived, it’s very possible to employ similar tactics for your business. We do this for some of our clients and enjoy wildly successful results.

First, I’ll recap the sequence of events that unfolded for the White Moose Cafe. Then I’ll go through the key pieces you’ll need if you want to replicate the tactic for your business (and how to do it with less ‘risk’)

12th August 2015
Vegan customer visits White Moose Cafe. Customer not happy with lack of vegan options and complains to staff.

13th August 2015
Owner of White Moose, Paul Stenson posts on Facebook:
“**ATTENTION VEGANS** Please do not waltz into our cafe with no advance notice and look at us as if we have ten heads when you realise that there aren’t 50,000 items on our menu that suit your idiosyncratic dietary requirements. Our chef will be more than happy to prepare a number of dishes for you, but a little heads up in advance of your visit would be appreciated. Fair is fair like.”

White Moose Post

The next few weeks passed without incident.

23rd October 2015
White Moose starts getting hundreds of 1* negative reviews. The instigator is a young, vegan girl called ‘Tee Jay’. She mistakenly took ‘idiosyncratic’ to mean ‘idiotic’. Feeling offended she posted on vegan chat forums. An avalanche of abuse from vegans the world over ensued and the White Moose Cafe received over 2000 negative 1* reviews in just a couple of hours.

Later that same day Paulie posted…
“**ALL VEGANS BARRED FROM OUR CAFE** Given the torrent of abuse and unjustified negative reviews we have been receiving from the vegan population over the past 24 hours, all vegans are now barred from our café. Any vegans attempting to enter the café will be shot dead at point blank range. While we wouldn’t usually kill any of our customers, as you say yourselves “meat is murder”, so it’s fair game if we murder humans as well as animals. There is clearly no difference. We look forward to never welcoming you vegans to our café ever again”

All vegans barred

Social media war quickly followed…

Here are some screenshots of Paulie’s posts. Have a quick read to get the gist and then I’ll go through my observations and how it’s possible to create similar situations for your business.  (You don’t have to be as extreme either!)

2 can play


Still barred

What a set of chance circumstances. It must have been hell of a roller-coaster ride for Paulie.

Imagine a harmless, 6-week old Facebook post inciting a few thousand people to come and start ‘bad-mouthing’ your business. Getting 2000 1* reviews in just a couple of hours. Paulie had no way of knowing that bigger numbers of ‘meat-eaters’ would come to his rescue and post tens of thousands of 5* reviews, effectively counteracting the poor ones.

If he hadn’t kept his cool, and more importantly his sense of humour, he might never have inspired those ‘meat-eaters’ to his defence. Definitely a big social media lesson there.

Visit the Facebook page and you’ll see Paulie’s cocky manner, cavalier approach to authority and disregard for ‘the rules’. His posts are littered with the worst of swear words. It certainly won’t appeal to everyone.

But that’s the point. This polarisation is what gives him such appealing personality. He is ‘loved’ by some (his newly found target audience) and ‘disliked’, or ‘hated’, by others.

Business owners take heed. Many of us make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone who could possibly buy from us. We’re scared of upsetting anyone. Ironically, this makes our businesses less appealing.

If we polarise we can expect better ‘results.’

Employing Similar Tactics:
I think there are 2 main ways you can interpret the lessons of the White Moose Cafe and then employ those lessons to contrive results for your business.

The first is to create controversy with 2 sides. This can be 2 opposing groups of people, like in the White Moose Cafe example above. Or it can be a controversial issue between passionate members of the same group.

Think of a sports team. There are many passionate deliberations between fans about which players should be playing in a particular position. But when the team has an opponent, the fans are united as one. Throw in some poor refereeing decisions and passion and controversy combine to really ignite.

Can you polarise or specialise?

For example:
At Marketing Together we only provide services to small businesses in Australia with less than $10 million TO (the majority are between 250k – 6 million). They must be either high-ticket item businesses or have naturally repeating customers. High ticket examples include Property, Pest Control, Kitchen/Bathroom Sales, Finance and Builders. Repeating businesses include Restaurants, Salons, Fitness Centres and Dentists. We don’t focus on acquiring plumbers, electricians, emergency locksmiths as clients, as they don’t suit the style of marketing we like to employ.

The second is to ask your audience to choose a point of view. This needn’t be extreme. A clothing store can put 2 pictures of different dresses side-by-side and ask their audience which they prefer. An Italian restaurant can run a poll on Pizza & Beer VS Pasta & Wine. It helps to limit choices to just 2 options.

We offer just 2 main choices at Marketing Together. Outsource your marketing department to us or use us for marketing consultancy. The only other option is not to use us at all.

And you’d be crazy to make that choice without at least taking up our offer of a free consultation. 🙂

(If you’d like to see how we attract thousands of likely buyers to our clients websites, and how we’d do it for you just book a consultation – it’s free! Our best results come when we combine anything controversial with the method I cover in the webinar. We got 10 years worth of traffic in just a single week for one of our clients. )