I Never Hear Reggae Outside Asia

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I’m writing to you from South-East Asia – on the way to a good friend’s Christmas Eve wedding. 

I’ve decided that tourist areas are perhaps the most highly competitive marketplaces in the world.

  • There’s little opportunity to build repeat-buying relationships; 
  • There’s little ability to increase the number of tourists who will pass by;
  • Any short-term success from differentiation is quickly met with an increase in the number of competitors doing the same thing;
  • And competing on price means eating into your own income.

All that’s left is…

Competing For Attention

It’s fascinating to see how different businesses do this. 

Where I’m staying, there are boutiques that are immaculately presented, and restaurant specials boards offering “happy hour” deals – both designed to PULL customers in.

But the most prominent strategy seems to be the PUSH strategy – where entrepreneurial locals battle to push their wares upon passers-by.

Walking down the street, there’s a constant barrage of shouts:

  • The taxi drivers calling “Transport?” and “Taxi?”
  • Women in matching smocks offering “Massage?”
  • Bait-and-switch souvenir sellers, with their too-good-to-be-true “For you, one dollar.”
  • Restaurant maitre’d’s holding menus, asking “Please look?”.

Or the cleverly generic “How are you, Sir?”

They must work…

…But must rely on a huge volume of approaches in order to make money. 

Perhaps they receive 200-300 rejections to get one “Yes”. (That’s a terrible conversion rate! But it’s workable.)

The rest of the time, tourists march by unaffected, having heard the same “pick-up 

lines” a thousand times a day.

There’s only one strange strategy that DOES seems to work consistently and effectively…

The Same Restaurant, Two Different Days

Two days in a row, I was shamelessly tapping away on my laptop in a quiet restaurant, late in the afternoon.

On the first day, the place was empty. And stayed largely empty until dinner time. 

On the second, it was empty – until a band began to play. 

By the time the band had finished their first song – “I shot the sheriff” – the place was full of tourists, ordering happy hour cocktails and beers by the bucket.

I never hear reggae outside Asia. But Bob Marley seems to have some kind of magical appeal here.

Perhaps it reminds people that they’re on holiday. Perhaps it’s the perfect mix of exotic and familiar for visitors wanting to try something exotic, albeit not too exotic. Perhaps it’s just an opportunity for a meal and a show. 

Whatever the case, it’s a kind of Pied Piper effect that draws people in. 

Two of the three busiest bars I passed on my evening stroll were playing reggae.

The third was filled with drunk Aussies, belting out a rendition of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a prayer” with the backing of one of the few non-reggae live bands that drew a crowd. (Perhaps this is the Pied Piper’s tune for a different audience.)

Every audience has its own Pied Piper tune. 

In the B2B consulting market, it’s often the tune of “This is the safest option for you to take.” that lands a sale.

In the property investing market, it’s “I’ll do the thinking, and take the risk away from you.”

In online marketing strategy, it’s “Here’s a new roadmap to get ahead.”

Once the right tune starts playing, everyone seems to follow the Piper wherever he leads. 

If there was a Pied Piper tune in your market, what would it be?


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