Marketing lessons from Cafe Fest

Heard about Cafe Fest last weekend yet? If you haven’t, here’s the scoop: like Beer Fest, the organisers attempted to charge ticketed entry into an arena where you can buy food. Why one would even do that is another story altogether. But imagine the disappointment when you paid $30 for your ticket, only to go in and discover that the rest of Singapore was there also … without having the need to buy a ticket!


Now, here’s another reason why you should speak with the media when there is a PR disaster. Because if you don’t, we will invent stories of our own. Here are some reasons why we think Cafe Fest did what they did:

a.) The organisers probably overestimated the turnout for the event, and on discovering sales was not as brisk, allowed the rest of the world to enter free.

b.) They wanted both paid turnout AND public walk-ins at the same time


On their Facebook page, the organisers (from the company Tell Great Little Stories Private Limited) posted the following message: “We conceptualised this festival with the best of intentions and we’re extremely disappointed we fell short of your expectations, but we do apologise and will continue to do our best to address all your concerns.”


But for the marketeers and PR people amongst us, here are a couple of interesting lessons we noted from this fiasco:


10. If you’re running an inaugural event and have no reliable and empirical data to forecast if it is going to work, start small. Maybe let people in for free to start with and then charge the following year.


9. Don’t take other people’s medicine. Just because Beer Fest works, doesn’t mean a Cafe Fest is going to. (Or a Bread Fest, Cheese Fest, Shag Fest… whatever…) Pub goers are used to paying a “cover charge”, but I thought it was very weird to have to pay an entry fee to eat stuff that I can get at cafes just around my neighbourhood.


8. The Beer Fest has crafted, imported and exotic beers from all over the world. What could I have expected at Cafe Fest? Exotic eggs benedict?


7. Singaporeans have a heightened sense of justice. The minute they sense something is unfair, God help you.


6. Singaporeans also have a heightened sense of legality. Check out this commentator who actually pulled out a statutory power from the Consumer Protection Act.




5. And when it is time to do a PR recovery, do it nice and clean. Instead of doing something people can understand, like say a refund, rebate or a bouquet of flowers. The organisers then went and increased the prices of products sold to non-ticket holding patrons. Here’s what one unhappy visitor “Jack Lin” said, “…upping the price of the food does nothing for the VIP. It is like increasing bus fares for others except the elderly and claiming it as a discount”.


4. Again on PR recovery, please don’t say something like “..we were too caught up with preparations and that we didn’t clarify this point with you”. Ouch. They might as well say “..we were too busy doing business to clarify a point you were too stupid to understand”.


3. When you want to finally do a refund, announce the notice loud and clear. Don’t bury it in a 6 paragraph story like this:




Do it like this:





2. Speak with the media extensively when something like this breaks out, speak with the stakeholders, speak with your partners…speak with everyone and make it look like you care. Posting one message on Facebook does not make it look like you care.


1. And to all the angry people out there – take it easy. One bad organiser does not make them all like this. There are still many great events to go to and maybe next year Tell Great Little Stories Private Limited will learn how to get their act together. Just like *ahem* Dinner en Blanc (










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