Village baker over 500 years ago

Imagine we’re in a small village in France about 500-1000 years ago. Likely, everyone knows everyone else. People have grown up together and know pretty much all there is to know about one another, whether they’re friends or even in the same circles. In fact, many small towns are like this even today in the US.

Now, living in this village, how do you know where the best bread can be found? Each day you likely buy bread to be eaten that day – who makes the best bread to be purchased in the morning?

Or perhaps there’s only one baker in the village – how do you know when their best bread is made? Is it the first set of loaves? The second?

Word of mouth marketing

You know because this information is a part of the constant current of conversation in the village. You just know… Why? Because people talk – word of mouth. Everyone knows that Pierre loves making the bread every day and the best loaves are the first ones that come out of the oven before the sun rises. The second round is still good, but Pierre puts all of his joy and energy in the first loaves because he loves the sun rising over his freshly baked bread – it’s his personal ode to the concept of rising – a quirk of his personality.

And everyone knows this. So, people line up for the first round.

Bread purchased in the late afternoon is a different story entirely. George makes bread late in the day and his is known for its freshness for the evening meal. George likes to stay up late, sipping wine, talking, and eating bread. He refuses to lead the traditional life of a baker and get up early. Instead, he combines baking with other ways of making a living. And the village gets to have fresh bread for dinnertime. How do you know this? Well, everyone knows George’s habits and how it effects his bread. Word of mouth.

Here’s what that looks like:

“Quick! Let’s get out and down to the bakery…”

“Why? What’s the hurry?”

“If we get there early without our mamas, we get some free pastry tastes!”

“Alright… I’m in. Let’s go.”

Elissa dug through her bag for the working dress she brought for this trip. This was going to be fun!

Alaina pulled out her working dress from under yesterday’s piles and yanked it on.

Still not quite in their teens, they were eager to help while also grabbing their freedom.

“Both our mamas have so much to do, they’ll be thankful we fetched the fresh bread this morning,” whispered Alaina as she dashed down the stairs, Elissa right behind her.

“I’m so glad we got to come visit you – two whole weeks to play!”

“Come on – let’s head over to Pierre’s for the bread – it’s down that street.” Alaina pointed to the right.

“But what about the one over there? The one called George’s?”

“Oh, Mr. George… well… everyone knows he hates to get up early and so his morning bread is always late and not so good.”

As they walked down the lane, people were just starting to stir, sweeping off front steps, opening shutters, and emptying chamber pots.

Only a couple people were ahead of them when they got to the bakery. When their turn arrived, Alaina politely announced, “Good morning, Mr. Pierre. We have company today! So, I’d like 4 loaves this morning please.”

“Well certainly, Miss Alaina. Please say hello to your mama for me. And who is this with you?”

“She’s my cousin, Elissa. Her mama and mine are sisters and they’ve brought their whole family to visit us for this week. Isn’t that great!”

“Sounds like a lot of fun for you all, with a bit of work for both your mamas. You make sure you both help them out a bit.”

“Yes sir.”

“Nice to meet you, Mr. Pierre. May I ask you a question?”

“Certainly – but quickly, we have other guests arriving that wish their bread as well.”

“Why is your bakery the one people come to for the morning bread?”

Mr. Pierre peered down at Elissa, thinking about how to say what was so in a way that reflected the reality.

“Well, Miss Elissa, we each do best what suits our strengths and personality. I happen to love the quiet just before the beginning of the day. I enjoy hearing the birds just starting their chatter and the sun not yet creeping over the horizon. This time of day gives me peace and energy. And so I put that into my work here at the bakery to make bread that reflects that and in turn puts that energy inside each person who has some. My counterpart, Mr. George, loves the evening and the night. He’s energized by the afternoon and making bread that brings that extra special touch for the evening social meal.”

“Oh! So you each do what makes you happy?”

“Yes, and hope that it makes others happy as well. Now, scoot so I can help these other people.”

“Thank you, Mr. Pierre!” “Thank you!” called Elissa and Alaina as they headed back out to the street and towards home.

Is this marketing?

Of course it is. Pierre and George have let it be known who they are, what they care about, and when their bread is available. They’re transparent by default in this small village.

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