Create Sticky Memories to Build Long-Lasting Fans

Editor’s Note: Today we’re excited to bring you another guest post from Mike Kelley, a software and business consultant from Arlington, TX. Mike approached us and offered to share his experiences from the Texas Food Truckin’ Fest with the entire FoodTruckr community, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to hand over the reins today so that you can hear about this awesome event from a fan’s perspective!  

In today’s post, Mike explains how sticky memories can help food truck owners build lasting fans and shares his best stories from Texas Food Truckin’ Fest.  Be sure to also check out yesterday’s post recapping the festival and Mike’s photo gallery from the event.

At the recent Texas Food Truckin’ Fest in Arlington, TX, I had the opportunity to see a wide variety of food trucks. Though some trucks got lost in the crowd, there were a few that really stood out. These FoodTruckrs were not only more popular with fans, but they also excelled in creating memorable impressions. 

To make a memorable impression on scores of hungry fans at a large food truck event, a FoodTruckr must create a memory hook. A memory hook is a method of creating an association between your truck and the emotions your customer feels during your interaction. Powerful memory hooks can make your food truck memorable and very marketable in just a few seconds. The more powerful your hook, the more it will be on the minds of your customers—causing them to remember your truck, search for you at other events, visit you in the future for lunch or dinner, and talk about you with friends, family, and coworkers.

I just recently completed reading the book, “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and the Others Die,” by Dan and Chip Heath. The book explains why some memories are more powerful and long-lasting than others, and outlines several ways to get memories to stick in a person’s mind. The authors point out six common attributes that “sticky memories” share.

Sticky memories are:

  1. Simple
  2. Unexpected
  3. Concrete
  4. Credible
  5. Emotional
  6. Stories

After reflecting on my experience meeting FoodTruckrs at the Texas Food Truckin’ Fest, I would like to share some of my “sticky” memories with you in hopes that you will create your own—and also to point out why some sticky memories should be avoided.

1. Simple

Overall, I found that the food trucks I remembered the best were those that had very simple menus—and in many cases, these menus consisted of six or fewer menu items that all had a common theme. When a truck had a simple menu, I could tell others about what type of food they served in just one or two sentences. Make it easy for your customers to quickly and easily tell others what you’re all about!

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It’s also a great idea to keep your menu items themselves as simple as possible. One dish that especially caught my attention was the “Mac and Cheese with Lobster” from D. Cares Food Station. It was such a basic concept! I knew exactly what I was getting, and it was easy to describe to others what the item was and how great it tasted.

2. Unexpected

This is one of the easiest and simplest ways to create a memory hook with your customers—do something unique and different that creates an emotion. Whether the memories are good or bad, everyone loves sharing unique and unexpected experiences with others. For example, I remember one particular food truck that had a small compact outdoor smoker attached to the rear bumper of the food truck. It had a custom swivel arm that allowed the FoodTruckr to position the smoker to either the front or rear of the food truck. When I saw it, I remember saying to myself, “Wow, I haven’t ever seen something like that before—I’m going to tell a friend about that.” Another example was the Korean food truck, Say Kimchi. I wouldn’t have expected to find a Korean food truck in a location like Arlington, which has a very small Korean population—so it was an unexpected (and positive!) find.

However, keep in mind that unexpected events can also work against you. One of the food truck owners who showed me the inside of his food truck had a messy and unorganized kitchen. The memory that stuck with me in this case was, “This is a dirty truck, and I don’t want to eat here.” Be careful to avoid unwanted unexpected memories.

3. Concrete

Offering free samples of your menu items is a good way to create a concrete emotion that can be remembered later. Every time we eat, there is an emotion attached. This particular event had 40 food trucks, and I certainly couldn’t remember them all. However, I do remember every food truck that I ate at. Have you ever wondered why bakeries in large grocery stores give out free cookies? They do it so that next time you shop, you’ll remember to buy cookies at the bakery. Remember that you’re not losing a sale when you give away a sample—you’re instead gaining the possibility of a repeat future customer, referrals, or inspiring a fan to buy something else from your menu. Create a concrete memory that your food tastes great. These memories will inspire customers to purchase full orders and will get people excited to talk about and share your truck with others.

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4. Credible

There were a few food truck owners who added credibility to their brands by doing just one simple thing—dressing and acting the part! Instead of wearing casual street clothes they would wear every day, they chose to wear the attire of a professional chef. The simple act of dressing the part gave credibility to their brands.

You can also add credibility to your brand by using props. With the event being held in Texas, it was no surprise that there were a few trucks featuring barbeque products. However, those that were memorable were the ones who had established credibility for themselves. If you were looking for good barbeque and had to choose between several food trucks, which one do you think you would choose? One featuring a “TEXAS SIZE” smoker or the one that simply cooked meat on the grill in the back of the truck?

Finally, I also noticed that several trucks had lettering on the sides of their trucks stating that they did catering—but when I asked for a business card or a pamphlet, only a few were able to provide one. The FoodTruckrs who were able to provide me with a business card or pamphlet on their catering services gave me the impression that they were serious about their businesses.

5. Emotional

There were a few food trucks I remembered quite fondly because they made me aware of the importance of what they were offering. One such example was FoodTruckr D. Cares Food Station, a truck operating as a non-profit organization for the sole purpose of informing the public about proper nutrition, simple meal preparation, and local resources for food. Another FoodTruckr told me a great story about how important it is to use and choose the right ingredients if you want a superior cup of coffee. Finally, there was also a FoodTruckr who grew up in Brooklyn and was selling authentic New York style pizza by the slice. Everyone knows that the best pizza by the slice is served in Brooklyn, and this truck owner had no trouble being passionate about the authenticity of his pizza.

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6. Stories

One of the most common and best ways to create a memory is through stories. A great story can be as simple as telling people how and why you got into the food truck business, or a story about how one of your products won an award. I talked with several food truck owners at the event and I can remember every one of the stories that was told and who told it. Create a story that you can share with your customers that will convey the message about your truck you want them to remember. The message should tell about who you are and what you have to offer, what makes your food truck special and different from the rest, and why people should choose to eat at your truck.

A Successful Sticky Memory

There was one particular food truck at the event that really left an impression on me by using all six attributes of sticky memories—The Great Australian Meat Pie Company.

The Great Australian Meat Pie Company is a truck featuring Texas-sized portions and ingredients from traditional Australian favorites. The menu has a few, familiar entrees (simple) that weren’t being sold by other food trucks (unexpected). The food truck had a large canopy that provided shade from the Texas sun, and the food truck owner himself was out in front of the truck greeting patrons (unexpected). I was offered a sample of the Shepherd’s Pie (concrete). The entire staff wore chef’s attire, and the truck had the look and feel of a professional restaurant (credible). When I asked about the food truck, I was offered a business card and a pamphlet telling me about catering (credible). And the food truck operator, Bailey, told a great story about his adventures in Australia and how upon returning to Texas, he noticed that there was an opportunity to create Australian favorites that Texans would enjoy (emotional/story).

The Great Australian Meat Pie Company did a great job of creating a memory that was “sticky.” I will definitely want to eat at this food truck again—in fact, I have already recommended and suggested them to others and I have positive good memories about the truck that will not be easily forgotten!

Now, isn’t that the type of experience you want every one of your customers to leave with?

image by Mike Kelley

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About the Author

Mike Kelley

Mike Kelley is a software and business consultant. Located in Arlington, TX, he spends most of his free time attending Ranger games. You can contact Mike at his email address, [email protected]

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  • BOXBURGER Food Truck- Indiana

    Thanks for a great post! These are all things that I am expressing to MY Crew. My crew leader is so worried about offending the rest of the crew (thinking they are calling it laziness) – by my having him stand in front of the truck and talking to folks – passing out samples of our AWESOME fries, business cards, menus for the future, etc. I feel it is CRITICAL!
    People LOVE to feel welcomed & appreciated – (something the BIG-guys are forgetting!)

    We are also installing a 50″ TV on the side of the truck where we are showing sports bloopers, funny short videos, breaking important news, etc – (this will engage the customer while they are waiting in line) – another TV is being installed by the windows with the menu brightly lit up (hey – it WORKS for the BIG-boys)

    Our menu is simple: burgers, hot dogs, fries, sw pot fries, chips & drinks (with 20+ toppings they can choose from) – (for events we add in things like fried cheese cubes, etc) – keeping it simple also keeps my crew able to do their jobs in a coma (which SOMETIMES happens during huge events)

    Where we are able – we set up a large market tent to shade folks and have an industrial fan that we blow on them while waiting in line (often times we have people under OUR tent in front of our fans that made the mistake of getting food from (wait for it…. ANOTHER truck) – eeeccckkk….. We live in a cold winter state (Indiana) – so we will be putting out large patio heaters for our winter guests.

    It’s ALL about the guest I tell the crew – make them happy and they will talk. (Make them MAD and they will walk – AND talk too!) – We never argue with ANYONE (even if they are blatantly wrong) – we right it! $7.00 is a small price to pay for word of mouth advertising – good or bad!

    I have sent your post to my crew and asked them to read it, learn it & KNOW it! Thanks for backing me up (now they will see that I am NOT crazy – or more importantly perhaps, that there are more of us out there – haha)

    Jan