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How Pita Chips Can Change Your Marketing In 2011

This post is republished from my original article on the Amex Open Forum website. It is part of “Small Business Friday” on this blog, where I share ideas and marketing techniques specifically to help small businesses stand out. To read more articles like this, visit the “Small Business Friday” category on this blog.

IStock_000011613502XSmall Stacy’s Pita Chips had an unlikely beginning as a business. Starting out as a street vendor in a sandwich cart in Boston, Stacy had a predictable problem. If you sell food on the street and winter in Boston comes around, how do you keep people lined up waiting for their sandwiches instead of skipping the line for a faster option? You can’t really serve the food any faster once you get to a certain point of efficiency, so you have to think of something else. Stacy decided to hand out pita chips to her customers as they waited in line to keep them fed and more importantly, to keep them waiting.

It wasn’t long before the customer feedback prompted Stacy to just focus on making the pita chips and close the sandwich cart, and most of you reading probably know how that story turned out … with Stacy eventually selling her business to Frito-Lay. So what is the lesson in Stacy’s story for any small business, aside from the fact that pita chips can be a surprisingly great business choice? Sometimes your biggest opportunities can come from the smallest things.

The real question you need to ask is whether you are doing enough of the small things to keep your customers engaged and happy, and which of those things you might be able to better leverage for your business. The most common form of this is the free gift with purchase. This is a time honored marketing tactic and the classic example of this is the toy that comes with the Happy Meal.

I recently purchased a printer that had an extra ink cartridge inside as a bonus. It was not advertised on the box and was unexpected, yet finding it somehow made me feel much better about the purchase I had just made. Free gifts are like that – whether expected or unexpected, they offer an emotional surprise that can increase the positive feeling someone has as part of their purchase cycle with your business.

Why is that positive feeling so important? Because once you have made a sale your challenge is not only to make sure that the customer you sold to comes back again and again, but also that they share the experience with others. It is not the sandwich, but the pita chips that Stacy’s first customers talked about. After any kid goes to get a haircut, it is the lollipop that they wait for. Without the lollipop, no parents would bring their kids to get haircuts in your salon.

When it comes to changing your business in the new year, it might be the smallest things you do every day that have the biggest impact – so pay attention to them like Stacy did, and never minimize their impact. You never know where they may lead you.

9 thoughts on “How Pita Chips Can Change Your Marketing In 2011”

  1. Rohit,

    Great post. The little things can make the biggest difference.

    I call it marketing g.l.u.e or the idea of giving living unexpected extras. It’s based on the concept of marketing lagniappe. Lagniappe is creole. Dating back to the 1840’s in New Orleans it was the practice of the merchant giving a little something extra at the time of purchase.

    Here are a handful of leading companies that build that little extra added value into their offerings:

    1. Doubletree Hotels – A warm welcome (literally) with the Doubletree chocolate chip cookie. They’ve given over 200 million to customers at check-in.

    2. Stew Leonard’s – Buy $100 or more in groceries and receive a free ice cream or cup of coffee from the World’s Largest Dairy Store.

    3. TD Bank – A penny arcade in the lobby. Free coin exchange for both customers and guests.

    4. Southwest Airlines – ‘Bags Fly Free’. No fees for two checked bags, saving customers up to $120 on a round trip.

    5. Five Guys Burgers and Fries – Free peanuts and extra fries (lots of them)

    I’m a firm believer that if you execute marketing lagniappe correctly, you can differentiate your product or service, promote customer retention and stimulate positive word of mouth.

    Done correctly and you give your customers something to talk, tweet, blog and Facebook about.


    ‘The longest and hardest 9 inches in marketing . . . is the distance between the brain and heart of you customer’

  2. About 4 or 5 years ago, the doorbell rang at my house and I found an unexpected box on my porch addressed to me. When I opened it, I found a sampling of every flavor of Stacy’s Pita Chips and a letter saying that they were randomly sending them to a few thousand women in my age demo named Stacy (who spelled it the same way) . . . just because they thought we’d like to try them and because we shared the same name.

    A little thing and unexpected . . . they had me at “Dear Stacy” and at the time I had a rather popular blog (I’ve since retired that one) so I blogged about it. Because it was that long ago, I don’t think it was a targeted blogger outreach, but when I lucked out, so did they . . . they didn’t have an affiliate program or anything, but it was a very highly commented upon post with higher-than-usual traffic.

    You’re totally right, Rohit – it IS the little unexpected things. I still give them great WOM to this day, and I still eat the pita chips! 🙂

  3. What a great story, Stacy! I knew about that campaign and actually wrote about it in Personality Not Included … but I wish I had known you were part of it – you would have been a great interview, I’m sure. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  4. Great post Rohit. I believe, the same tactics are followed by every other company now, irrespective of industry vertical. Be it Bank of America or RyanAir, everyone seems to be joining the bandwagon.

  5. Great post Rohit. I believe, the same tactics are followed by every other company now, irrespective of industry vertical. Be it Bank of America or RyanAir, everyone seems to be joining the bandwagon.

  6. Rohit, I always enjoy your posts. You’ve inspired me to come up with our own “Pita chips” now. And, Stan, your “g.l.u.e.â€￾ acronym, I love that. Way back in the day I was a flight attendant and I always loved finding out we were staying at a Doubletree hotel. For no other reason than their warm chocolate chip cookies always made me feel better after a long day!


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Rohit is the author of 8 books on trends, the future of business, building a more human brand with storytelling and how to create a more diverse and inclusive world.

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