Can word-of-mouth trump high-profile marketing?

A brewery in Seattle relies entirely on customer referrals. It doesn’t even have a sign outside, but it’s proven hugely popular. Could that approach work for other companies?

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It was my first time there, but before I even walked through the door, I could feel the energy from the outdoor seating area. It was full of smiling people enjoying glasses of beer on a summer evening.

While we were appreciating the atmosphere and, of course, cold beer, something we noticed sparked a debate. There were no signs outside the brewery to identify it. The only Fremont Brewing identifier was the label printed on the glass. So, why wasn’t the logo on a large sign outside the building, informing Seattle residents of this amazing spot?

As a marketing student and an aspiring PR professional, I was confused. I haven’t been in the business long, but this goes against everything I have learned about marketing. Businesses usually aim to gain exposure and create a strong brand, which then influences people’s purchasing decisions. However, Fremont didn’t even have a sign; how could this build a brand with a strong following?

Lucky for us, we discovered we were sitting next to the owner, Matt Lincecum. Naturally, we asked about the absence of signage. I was particularly intrigued because I drive past the brewery every night on my way home. On more than one occasion, I’ve looked for a sign to connect a name to this spot that never fails to draw a crowd (even on a cloudy day).

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