Who cares about word of mouth? Its my brand!

Ever heard of a pop-up restaurant?  Until today, I hadn’t.  I admit I eat to live, rather than live to eat so I’m not a good barometer.  But, here’s how New York Magazine defines it.  I have heard of pop-up retailers, however.  The idea is to capitalize on the buzz created by a new store opening, ride the wave and then move on to another location in short order.  Restaurants are taking it to the extreme with one night stands based on location, theme or both.

So, after learning about the concept, I was left shaking my head at what is another example of a big company alienating a raving fan and doing its part to keep customer service in the dark ages under the guise of protecting a brand.

The owner of The Underground Restaurant, run out of her home in London, had been planning a Harry Potter themed pop-up night.  That is until Warner Brothers, the owners of the Harry Potter franchise got wind of it and wrote her a very formal, pseudo-threatening cease and desist letter; from its lawyers, of course.  

Here’s the best part of the letter. while we are delighted you are such a fan of the Harry Potter series, unfortunately, your proposed use of the Harry Potter properties, without our consent would amount to infringement of Warner’s rights”.  Translation: “We’re not delighted at all.  We’re actually irate that you would have the nerve to be so passionate about our brand.  So, we’re going to flex our corporate muscles, bully you into submission and drive you away.”  Dumb.  Just flat out dumb. 

In contrast, the restaurant owner hosted another pop up theme around a popular British product called Marmite.  That company sent the restaurant owner enough supply of its product to make all the dishes on the menu, FREE!  (psst…Warner Brothers.  Did you get that?  They embraced their loyal customer, joined the party and got some great free publicity)

So, which company is going to come out of this smelling better? (ok rhetorical question).  What a golden opportunity Warner Brothers missed to partner with a raving fan.   

How many times do these kind of stories need to surface before big companies and big brands get it?



  1. Anonymous says:

    Great story!
    It's also interesting to me that Warner Brothers owns the rights to Harry Potter. I understand for the movies, but really for all things Harry Potter???

  2. I thought that odd as well. Apparently for everything except publishing rights. Thats what it seems to me. thanks for the comment.

  3. Great post! I agree that companies have to realize the potential of their fans and word of mouth.

  4. I couldn't agree more with this post. It reminds of a commercial out right now saying "I'm wondering why we're listening to these customers, seems dumb". Not a unique mindset unfortunately.

  5. Eric. Right on. There's a BIG "but" in that quote, even if the actual word is never uttered. In whatever form of communication, any time 'but' is present, whether implicit or explicit, it has a way of discounting everything said before that.

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