Of all of our Moroccan adventures, there were two incomparable culinary experiences that stand out. The first is a must for any traveler to Marrakesh: the nightly kebab stalls in Place Jemaa el-Fna.
As food and beverage marketers, we were highly amused to see how these entrepreneuring chefs — with largely parity offerings — attract their clientele. As unsuspecting tourists walk down the aisle, the staff at each stall will energetically applaud and cheer them. Simultaneously, their point man will begin a litany of fast-talking brand promises in whatever language seems most effective. “Lifetime guarantee: no diarrhea!” “Air conditioning!” (This latter guarantee being ironic since all stalls only offer plein-air dining.)
Jostled into stall 55 and seated at the family-style table with two lovely Japanese women, we selected the brochettes mixtes: sizzling kebabs of vegetables, kefta, steak, chicken and more. Our waiter, detecting our American roots, insisted on supplying French fries as well as the ubiquitous mint tea to cap off our meal. As the pastry sellers wheeled their carts past our table, and the crowds surged, we reflected on the vitality of the setting. It was not unlike eating onstage during a Cirque du Soleil performance.
The second defining moment occurred when we discovered La Table du Palais restaurant (currently TripAdvisor’s #6 ranking). In a cool grotto of orange trees and shady palms, we enjoyed one of the top ten meals of our lives (trust us: it’s an illustrious and global list.) We savored a tajine variant: succulent beef in a rich sauce, brightened with lemon rind on a bed of semolina. Finishing with a light citron sorbet, we thought we might have died and gone to someplace good (no doubt a clerical error, in our case).
All in all, besides being a gustatory tour de force, our visit reminded us often about the very basics of advertising. The very word advert has its etymological roots in “ad + vert” — to turn toward. And, in lieu of any modern branding vehicles, the medina of Marrakesh uses every sensory means at its disposal to turn the heads of its targets: scent (the restaurants), touch (the henna artists), motion (the street acrobats), sound (the clack-clack of the shoe shiners’ blocks), color (the hand-painted names on the side of the porters’ tin carts), empathy (the street urchin beggars) and relevant utility (the secretive hash dealers).
In an industry rampant with digital media and nuanced messaging, it can be a heady thing indeed to taste marketing and sales at their most primal.
Marketing lesson: Don’t forget to appeal to all senses in your brand’s storytelling.
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