What Every Digital Marketer Can Learn from the Barbecue Industry


Photo courtesy of J.C. Reid: The long line at Snow’s BBQ in Texas.

It might sound weird, but digital marketers can learn a lot from barbecue. It’s a southern food staple with a popular history and an even more popular following. Books and television shows are dedicated to the subject. National awards draw crowds of barbecue lovers to their favorite cities for weekends full of festive eating and cooking competitions. Sauces and marinades are sold to home cooks, along with grills, smokers, wood chips and other outdoor cooking accessories. Barbecue is America’s new national pastime.


The Houston Chronicle calls this The Era of Blockbuster Barbecue. Tiny establishments with not much more than a smoker and a cash register commanding hour-long lines for their lovingly smoked meats. Some of them are only open one or two days a week. They always sell out. Things weren’t always this easy for barbecue joints. Barbecue, while always a popular food item, used to be about selling locally. Marketing was geared towards getting people to come to them. Barbecue in the digital era is all about bringing barbecue to the people, in every way possible. It’s about creating a barbecue lifestyle.


To ride the wave of barbecue’s popularity and impress today’s savvy consumer, you must understand these two concepts: craft and quantity.


Take Snow’s Barbecue in Texas. The Houston Chronicle names it as one of the barbecue era’s titans.


“Like all blockbuster barbecue,” writes J.C. Reid,  “Snow’s takes a small-batch, craftsman-like approach to barbecue. In other words, there’s only a limited supply of it. Combined with the fact that Snow’s is open only on Saturdays, this limited supply intersected with a frenzied demand to create the iconic symbol of blockbuster barbecue: a long, snaking line of barbecue faithful willing to wait for hours in a spirit of camaraderie to get the best barbecue in the world.”


Two lessons all digital marketers can learn from the small, sold out barbecue joint are the lessons of “limited supply” and “frenzied demand”. Not everyone can smoke great barbecue. It’s a talent that has to be cultivated, like any craft. Once the craft has been mastered, it’s all about the batch.


The same rule applies to content and social media. It’s all about planning, developing and executing just the right mix of storytelling and online engagement. Once you find out what works, take advantage of your “limited quantities” of content to best satisfy your “frenzied demand”.


That means treating your digital media like a brick and mortar business. When is your blog open?  What type of content are you feeding your audience? Are your customers hungry for a certain type of information? How much content are you putting out there at once? Is it fresh or warmed up leftovers?


Digital marketing, like the restaurant industry, can always count on your appetite. Today’s mobile consumer is hungry for content, and your business should be ready to serve.


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