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THE 25 MOST AUDACIOUS COMPANIES

Word-of-Mouth Marketing at Its Most Delicious

This quirky Oregon-based doughnut shop has legions of fans across the country and spends next to nothing on advertising. Here's how it works.
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Portland, Oregon's Voodoo Doughnut is one crazy retailer. It makes doughnuts with names such as Maple Blazer Blunt and Voodoo Doll (see below). Its co-founder has presided--as a minister--over weddings in the shop. It produces doughnut music. It would be comfortable in an episode of the TV show Portlandia. "We couldn't have opened this place in Memphis," says co-founder Kenneth "Cat Daddy" Pogson, himself a Memphis native.


For all the nuttiness, there are actually sound business principles at work here. The endgame is all about achieving that Holy Grail of marketing, word of mouth, and spending practically nothing on advertising. When Voodoo opened its first store in 2003, it didn't advertise on purpose. Even today, with lines regularly snaking out of its two other Oregon locations and one in Colorado, its advertising and marketing budgets are minimal. 

That's where the weddings and record label come in. Pogson, a former wrestling-ring announcer, conducts the nuptials--about 40 per year--in outfits such as a gorilla suit or a preacher costume. Afterward, the happy couple digs into doughnuts and coffee. The practice has earned Voodoo plenty of publicity. (The story line: It's not just a wacky coffee shop; it's the wacky coffee shop that performs wacky weddings.) Maybe that also explains Pogson and co-owner Tres Shannon's foray into the music business. They solicit and publish singles from independent bands and artists across the country. The catch? The song has to be about doughnuts. (Go to voodoodoughnut.com for a download.)

Have Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen recorded a doughnut song yet?




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