Gelato Messina today serves 30,000 customers per week. Source: News Corp Australia
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YOU know that one shop that's so good, you tell all your friends about it?
In marketing jargon it's called "word-of-mouth", and for most companies it's the holy grail. As the old adage goes, the worse your product is, the more you have to spend on advertising.
According to Declan Lee of Gelato Messina, the ice cream chain fast becoming a national phenomenon, all the clever tricks in the world are no good if the product doesn't stack up.
"If you get a referral from a friend, someone whose taste you trust implicitly, if they endorse something — that is better than any marketing you can put in front of their face," he said.
Mr Lee has been running Messina's brand development for the past four years alongside founder Nick Palumbo, his brother Danny Palumbo and chef Donato Toce.
The Shark-Lado cone. Source: Supplied
From somewhat shaky beginnings in Sydney's Darlinghurst in 2002, Messina has today expanded to six stores nationally and serves more than 30,000 customers per week.
He says the decision was made early on to not spend a single cent on traditional advertising. Instead, Messina relies on mouth-watering updates on its Facebook page to get people talking.
It also engages in "creative collaborations" — basically, anything that takes the team's fancy. That can range from creating custom gelato flavours for a wedding, to a blood-filled "heart" to promote HBO's True Blood, to a Sharknado-themed gelato cone.
"The early thing that contributed to our success was simply using social media," Mr Lee said. "It sounds ridiculous to say now, but when we started our Facebook page, people in this space weren't really using it very well. We used it as a signpost for us, as a point for conversing with our customers."
Sharyn Smith, founder of marketing company Social Soup, said as long as you can make your product remarkable, it will get talked about. "Just as word-of-mouth is the best kind of advertising, it's also the worst way for a bad product to advertise," she said. "It's killed many bad products."
SMALL BUSINESSES WITH BIG CULT FOLLOWINGS
Famous for absurd ice cream concoctions, on some nights queues at Gelato Messina's Surry Hills store run around the block. Messina has now expanded to six stores nationally.
BLACK MILK CLOTHING
Based out of a small design studio in Brisbane, Black Milk Clothing is the fastest-growing company you've never heard of, and it has a rabid Facebook following.
Black Milk Clothing's Cameron Parker showing off the new 3D interactive website. Source: News Limited
The only place to go for cheap, tailored jeans — but be prepared to wait in line. Founded by denim specialist Nam Huynh in 1989, Brunswick's Dejour Jeans has become a Melbourne institution.
Sydney cafe The Grounds of Alexandria hit the headlines late last year when resident pig Kevin Bacon was abducted, but even before then the converted warehouse was drawing visitors from all over.
The super-trendy Grounds of Alexandria. Source: Supplied
PULP FICTION COMICS
Just around the corner from Rundle Mall in the centre of Adelaide's CBD, Pulp Fiction Comics is the place to go for hardcore comic geeks and casual pop-culture fans alike.
Peter Moore, owner of Pulp Fiction Comics in Adelaide. Source: News Limited
BLACK STAR PASTRY
Suburbanites wait patiently in lines stretching up the street for Black Star Pastry's famous strawberry watermelon cake. Black Star operates out of a hole in the wall in Newtown, in Sydney's Inner West.
The famous strawberry and watermelon cake. Source: News Limited
Some customers have queued for an hour to buy six pastries — the maximum per person — from Melbourne patisserie Lune Croissanterie, run by former aeronautical engineer Kate Reid.
Based out of Bondi, surf photographer Eugene Tan's website and print store, Aquabumps, dedicated to all things early morning beach life, has a massive Facebook following.
Eugene Tan shoots daily at sunrise. Source: Supplied
From a tiny market stall to a booming children's clothing label, Oobi has developed a loyal community of mothers — fans have even been known to throw Oobi-themed parties.
BASS & FLINDERS DISTILLERY
Located an hour's drive south of Melbourne on Victoria's Mornington Peninsula, Wayne Klintworth and Bob Laing's boutique distillery has been generating buzz in the bar scene.
Wayne Klintworth (left) and Bob Laing of Bass & Flinders Distillery. Source: News Corp Australia
For those in the know, Raw Cloth is a must visit for any visitor to Darwin. The tiny store in Nightcliff specialises in dresses and fabrics handpainted by indigenous artists from Maningrida and Merrepen.
Raw Cloth owner Rhonda Dunne (right) and work partner Kerrie Horgan. Source: News Limited
Based in Torquay in Victoria, Oishi-M is another kids' clothing brand with a serious following. As the name suggests, Oishi-M mixes Japanese, vintage and retro fabrics to create a unique look.
Which business do you recommend to all your friends? Leave your suggestions in the comments below.