• September 1, 2008
  • By Marshall Lager, founder and managing principal, Third Idea Consulting; contributor, CRM magazine

View of Pints

Article Featured Image

Memo from the desk of Marshall Lager, September’s Chief Microbrew Officer:

In a column that’s called “Pint of View,” you’d expect to hear a little bit more about the joys of fermented adult beverages, and I’ve been quite remiss in my duties on that front. One reason is that ale and magazine writing don’t go well together—most of us prefer hard liquor when we’re on the job. [>hiccup< –Ed.] Another is that it’s hard to justify the combination in terms of CRM, outside of vendor dinners and other events (thanks to so many of you for killing off so many of my brain cells over the course of so many evenings).

Fortunately, I’ve recently woken up to the obvious nexus of customer relationships and drinking: the pub. (Forgive me for not calling it a bar, but pub has always had a nicer, friendlier feel.) Pubs are gathering spots where people from all walks of life can enjoy a communal activity. Yes, one could drink alone, but I’ve found that’s best suited for moments of writerly desolation. (Besides, you wouldn’t bother going out just to drink alone.)

The pub charges a premium for variety, society, a decent jukebox, and not having to clean up after yourself. But beyond that, the pub generates loyalty through good service; bartenders often have recommendations, and those recommendations are almost never designed to move old stock. If you have a special request, there’s a good chance it will be fulfilled. And many places have an unofficial loyalty/rewards program: As long as you tip well, you get the occasional free drink.

Loyalty to (or at least preference for) a particular pub is also a factor of product offerings. It doesn’t matter how nearby a pub might be—if it doesn’t serve what I like to drink, I’m not going there. I may need to drive 15 minutes to reach Croxley Ales, but the joint earned my loyalty by serving a good range of English, Irish, and Belgian brews—and cemented that loyalty by printing the names of the beers it didn’t serve: Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Loyalty has its downside, too: A pub good enough to drive to is one you have to drive home from afterward—a potential disaster.

Some pubs are organized around a particular theme—and cater to a particular kind of customer. There’s one in particular that’s good enough to make me travel (by bus, so don’t worry): Barcade, in the East Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, is equal parts watering hole and 1980s-era arcade. Not only does it feature a good range of imports and microbrews, but the owners have the good sense not to screw people on the price. Mixed drinks are also reasonably priced and reasonably sized. Staff and patrons all tend to be knowledgeable, so they can (and do) make suggestions.

But drinking is only half the picture. Lining the walls of Barcade are the games of my childhood. Arcade games, that is—I grew up on Long Island, so I spent a lot of time in shopping malls, okay? I’m not talking about the lookalike fighting games you see today; these are games like Frogger, Q*bert, Ms. Pac-Man, Star Wars (best.game.ever), Berzerk, and Asteroids, plus a bunch that most of you will have never heard of.

Even better? They only cost a quarter. Compare that to the buck or more you’ll spend on today’s garbage, and the drinking is only an afterthought. And all that electricity is wind-powered, so it’s got the old mall arcades beat, environment-wise.

Inebriation, entertainment, a friendly atmosphere, and low prices. If they had beds, I’d move in. The feelings Barcade engenders in me are the kind that no marketing campaign can create, and no salesperson can provide. My local pub—the one I call my own—is nowhere near me. And I’m fine with that.

You can send your quarters via PayPal to Senior Editor Marshall Lager at mlager@destinationCRM.com.

Every month, CRM magazine covers the customer relationship management industry and beyond. To subscribe, please visit http://www.destinationcrm.com/subscribe/.

CRM Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues