The ‘Coffee & Truffles Standard’: Marketing Lessons Via Savvy San Fran Chocolatier

Who would have thought we’d learn rich digital marketing perspective, simple and true, from a clever California truffle-making entrepreneur?

The 700 block of San Francisco’s Columbus Avenue, between Filbert and Greenwich, is a vital, bustling, urban neighborhood street. Dotted with splendid Italian sidewalk cafés, coffee shops, bars and colorful storefronts, grabbing a potential walk-by customer’s attention can present a formidable retail challenge.


Walking from Chinatown to Fisherman’s Wharf through North Beach, my eye is immediately drawn to bright yellow and blue contrasting signage. XOX Truffles totally cut through the clutter to catch my eye.


I watched folks walking by XOX Truffles for a while. More than 50% of walkers passing by turned their heads to look at the signs. Some noticed, stopped and went in the store. Lesson One: Be colorful and contrast with anything nearby to distinguish your sales pitch.

THEN, lightning strikes ME. Right in front of my very eyes on the sidewalk is the sign, “Free Truffle With Any Coffee.”


Boom! OMG, I’m a sucker for both… and together… and a deal to boot!?

My mouth is watering… primal. The bundled offer is pure genius on several levels. First like many humans, I LOVE (crave) the taste of chocolate and coffee together. Getting chocolate for free with my coffee is pretty much an irresistible proposition. Also the offer speaks to how others and I personally, actually bundle food. Lesson Two: When bundling products for special offers, package items that commonly go together. Hold marketing bundles to the, “Coffee and chocolate standard.”

Also, the bundled offer is easy to think about. The free truffle is not limited to Americano, regular coffee or only one type of chocolate or any restrictions. It is good with the purchase of ANY coffee, which required little intellectual parsing to comprehend. Lesson Three: Make the special offer simple, easy to understand with few barriers between the prospective customer and a sale.

The XOX Truffles storefront has reviews in big letters and news clippings, from USA Today to The New York Times, which establish serious credibility at first gape. Digital marketers call these “Trust icons.”


Windows are plastered with big bold quotes from seemingly authoritative chocolate reviewers. David Rosengarten’s Food Network Report appeals to foodies in the know. The citations in the window come from an array of credible sources, from mild to wild. Not everyone would know a Food Network show. Most prospective customers understand that The New York Times is a big deal. 


Lesson Four: Use a range of trust icons, reviews and credible media citations to gain customers’ trust.

Inside the store, local legend, Chef Jean-Marc Gorce, is standing inside making truffles by hand. The truffle creation takes place right behind the service counter, which helps get customers invested in the craftsmanship of the truffles. Chef Gorce playfully chats with customers, drawing them further into his culinary world.


You’re there for the coffee and a free truffle. The truffles are looking pretty good. They taste even better than they look.


I asked Chef Gorce how long he’d offered a free truffle with any coffee. He said 19 years and that the tactic had worked the entire time. He shared that customers purchased additional Truffles, “Almost all the time.” Lesson Five: Prove value with bundled special offers and stick with what works.

For all the data we digital marketers peruse, it’s amazing how primal great marketing can be. XOX earned me as a forever customer because the store is a great experience and the tastes are wonderful.

Yes, I bought more truffles. Yes, the double Americano kicked butt. Who would have thought we’d learn solid digital marketing lessons, classic and authentic, from a sharp California truffle-making neighborhood rockstar?

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