Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Strategy

The Awesome Power of Family in Social Media Storytelling

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to write a post about the power of family in social media storytelling. And as you sit down to whatever celebration you embrace, think about the videos below and what they evoke within you.

But first, remember that the goal isn’t to be good at social media. The goal is to be good at business because of social media. Social is just a conduit. But for what?

Sometimes, it’s a conduit to anthropomorphize your business, attaching to it human characteristics like empathy, humor, and spontaneity. Humanization creates kinship between your company and its customers. And that bond drives purchase behavior and advocacy. We want to do business with what we know, like, and trust. Social media can be used to increase the degree to which we know, like, and trust companies. Even delicatessens.

Chompie’s Deli is an institution in Phoenix (where I lived for 15 years, and where both of my children were born). Over more than 30 years Chompie’s has become “Arizona’s New York Deli.” But Metro Phoenix is a curious place. Almost no residents over the age of 25 are from Phoenix. Everyone arrived from somewhere else, trying to start fresh and take advantage of hyper-growth, good weather (most of the time), and inexpensive real estate. Consequently, Phoenix has approximately zero reverence for its past. New is cool. Old is mold. It’s not the land that time forgot, it’s the land that ignores time.

The zeal for what’s new – sometimes at the exclusion of what’s actually good – is palpable in the region, and that attitude can be less than ideal for an institution like Chompie’s.

Humanization. With Real Humans

Enter Chompie’s Marketing Director Peggy Baker, and Shane Malach, grandson of the still-active founders, Lou and Lovey Borenstein. According to Peggy, to know Lou and Lovey is to know Chompie’s. As the company expanded to four locations, Peggy realized that many customers had lost the connection between the founders and the business.

We set out showcase what (aside from the food) really makes Chompie’s….Chompie’s. The personality traits that describe Lou and Lovey (New Yorker, quirky, original, genuine, family-oriented, authentic, big on personality, approachable, hospitable) are also how you can describe Chompie’s.

To humanize the restaurants and rekindle the brand in the imagination of current and future customers, Chompie’s turned to NYC film/video production company Smuggler (where Shane works) to produce a series of four of the most amazing, delightful, memorable and fantastic videos I’ve ever watched.

See “How We Wed
See “How Chompie’s Got Its Name
See “An Egg Cream Story

The More You Sell, The Less You Sell

What I love about these videos is that they don’t devolve into promotions-based drivel. There’s no coupon. There’s no “35th Anniversary Special”. There’s not even a call-to-action. Keeping the videos devoid of promotions was a specific creative decision, according to co-director Tristan Higgs:

The idea was to create something that inherently can build love for Chompie’s by building love for Lou and Lovey. Why mess with that by promoting something at the end? It felt too gratuitous and explicit to do that.

The directors got a first-hand feel for Borenstein family, staying with daughter Wendy (Shane’s mother) when in Phoenix for the shoot. And indeed, all the videos were filmed at Lou and Lovey’s home, with all the accoutrements that belong to them (including a sizable wolf memorabilia collection).

Co-director Catherine Rehwinkel says the videos were inspired by When Harry Met Sally, as well as Errol Morris’ early work, including Vernon, Florida (my second favorite movie) and Gates of Heaven. Says Catherine:

We wanted to keep it simple, and let them be the star. Lou and Lovey were not prepped at all. What you see is the real them. We did edit carefully to make sure we didn’t tip from “endearing” to “mean spirited”.

Not every business has Lou and Lovey. But every business has a story to tell. And many businesses have a family story to tell. Are you telling it yet?

Facebook Comments


  1. says

    Hey Jay,

    “Not every business has Lou and Lovey. But every business has a story to tell. And many businesses have a family story to tell. Are you telling it yet?”

    So true, and yet so hard to get across to businesses! Great read, adding to my Buffer now…

    I just realized (looking in your footer) you are in Bloomington, my brother is the head Tennis coach at UI (Randy). Anyway, hav a great Thanksgiving!

  2. JackiMieler says

    Laughing, crying, craving their matzo ball soup. I think a visit to Chompie’s is in order the next time I head down the hill. Thanks for sharing!

  3. says

    Hi Jay,

    Having lived in Phoenix for a few years, I definitely miss Chompies. Totally agree that businesses need to tell stories and Chompies does a nice job here. I’d argue that the hard part is now getting people to hear this story. That’s the challenge. In general, people are not searching for videos from Chompies, and the videos only have 200 views, so the question really is what is Chompies going to do with these videos now that they are made?

    • AZMegB says

      @JoshGrossman28 Very good point. I think that I am very active in the Phoenix social media scene, specifically interested in small restaurant businesses here and this is the first I’ve heard of these videos.

  4. AZMegB says

    Thank you for this post @JayBaer , Phoenix is such a unique place – I struggle with how much I subscribe to the fun and excitement that living in the southwest and always searching for the next big thing, and how long I can live in a place that doesn’t value it’s memories or past. I’ve been posting about the same thing here ( Food for thought here and a few of my favorite lines: “New is cool. Old is mold. It’s not the land that time forgot, it’s the land that ignores time.” Thanks again.

    • says

      @AZMegB Thanks Meg. Now that I’ve left AZ, I have a little more perspective. I miss it, but only sometimes. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment.

  5. jamescruise99 says

    An impressive share, I just given this onto a colleague who was doing a little analysis on this. Thanks for spending the time to discuss this, I feel strongly about it and love reading more on this topic. If possible, as you become expertise, would you mind updating your blog with more details? It is highly helpful for me. Big thumb up for this blog post! Lakhani Collection

  6. JanaRunals says

    I like the idea that a big part of social media’s role in the marketing mix is to humanize the experience of the company. I think this is often over looked. You get some major brands stuffing your news feed/email with promotions and no content or relationship. You have some businesses that may provide good content but just broadcast at their followers like social media is just another form of TV ads. Taking the time to respond, have a conversation and be human is definitely worth the time in WOM ROI. I think Best Buy’s twitter presence is a good example of being an engaging company. Thanks for the thought provoking article, Mr. Baer.

    • says

      @JanaRunals Absolutely Jana. You’re right about Best Buy too. I’ve seen their execs speak at conferences (and hope to profile them in my new book). They are a big company that totally understands social media is about people, not logos.

  7. says

    Very interesting way of positioning their business. Warm, friendly and no strings attached. I wonder if this works for larger businesses too?

  8. margieclayman says

    Family businesses are interesting monsters. This I know all about.

    My grandfather started our company by telling his boss at a shoe store, “Hi, I’m quitting to start an advertising agency and I’d like you to be my first client.” Fifty-seven years later, we’re still around. There is a world of stories in there.

    You have me thinking. As per usual. My hamster in my brainz thanks you :)

  9. adpartain says

    Indeed family businesses are of a different breed of business. They can be awesome, or completely insane. I think social media is a great way to promote family business because I feel there is always history and story to tell behind the things that have happened or are happening. Pretty great opportunity to be able to promote businesses through social media now days. Great article!

  10. TimDanyo says

    Great post! As a video producer these videos were very inspirational. I am a big proponent of simple and endearing story telling for businesses- especially local. I admire the fact that these story tellers resisted the urge to blatently promote. Good stuff… Good stuff.

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