Kauai launches 150th branch in the V&A Waterfront, a PR fail!

Kauai banner Whale CottageWe were invited to attend the opening of the 150th branch of KAUAI, a second in the V&A Waterfront, on Thursday.  An in-house marketing job, it was a PR fail.

I managed to find the Marketing Manager Leeanne Jefferies by chance, and she told me that the area in the shopping centre where Cape Town Fish Market and their outlet is will be transformed into an H&M clothing store, widely popular in Europe and originating from Sweden.   Instead of waiting until February to open their new outlet, and to move out of the existing outlet, they decided to open the new outlet behind the Big Wheel near FNB, very hidden, there being no signage to guide one to it at all, whilst trading in their existing outlet, to make the most of the holiday season.

The launch function was scheduled for a most impractical time of 9h45, and we were reminded the day prior to be punctual in arriving by Retail Junior Retail Manager Samantha van Wyk. She addressed us in Hawaiian, using the word ‘Aloha‘, and ending it off with ‘Mahalo’, which I assumed to be her name, my Hawaiian being a bit rusty!  The switchboard answers the phone with a Hawaiian greeting too.   Leeanne told me that the aptly named co-founder and ‘Chief Innovations Officer‘ John Berry grew up in Hawaii, on the island of Kauai, and was a keen surfer. To make some money, he juiced the fruits from the island, and was surprised about their popularity.  He came to South Africa to attend a wedding, and loved it so much and found his juices to do so well that he launched KAUAI locally 18 years ago.

I wrote back that I have a day job, and that my guest house duties take precedence.  I arrived at about 10h30, when the proceedings had just commenced.  I heard from Lynne Ford, the only guest I recognised other than the launch participants,  that they hadKauai breakfast treat Whale Cottage arrived punctually, only to see the KAUAI employees carry tables and chairs  outside the outlet.  When asked, they were served some coffee.  Tables outside had little glasses of fruit salad, and of muesli, yogurt and fruit.

Kauai Dr Michael Mol Whale CottageTo create some energy about the launch, the ‘clever’ plan was to have two subsequent teams of three persons make smoothies from the fruit and other ingredients that are used in the KAUAI drinks, and for the three drinks to be evaluated by three KAUAI staff members (John, the new executive chef Ryan Brand, who moved across from The Banting Kitchen at the end of November, and an unnamed operations manager). There were no name tags for anyone, and the announcer Siv Negsi must have assumed that everyone knew everyone else.   In the first team of three Dr Michael Mol of ‘Hello Doctor’ on SABC 3 competed against Shirley McMurray-Wolmarans, National Events Manager at Virgin Active (there are 50 KAUAI outlets in Virgin Active health studios), and an unidentified third man.  Based on the tasting, Dr Mol’s lovely looking berry smoothie was judged to be the most nutritious, but Shirley’s chocolate smoothie wasKauai Liezl van der Westhuizen Whale Cottage judged to be the best tasting.  A second team had Kfm presenter Liezel van der Westhuizen doing her best to make a smoothie with one hand, having hurt one hand when she came off her bicycle, receiving some help from one of the KAUAI staff.  She was up against actress Susana Kennedy and actor Siv. Liezel’s ‘Ray of Sunshine‘ smoothie won in her round.

The second round was a boring repetition of the first round of smoothie-making, and a waste of time.  I missed the welcome by John, and the background to the function.  Not one KAUAI marketing or other staff member came up to their guests proactively, to welcome us, to offer us something to drink, or offering to answer any questions, not even Samantha.  I asked Leeanne whether we would receive the media release on the same day, but it did not arrive, so I had to call to chase it up, Samantha and Leeanne being out of the office.  I did manage to find a lady in the office, who had the release sent from their PR company Weber Shandwick  in Johannesburg. The release did not pertain to the function earlier that day, not letting us have the names of the smoothie contestants!  It struck me that this was another example of a Johannesburg-based PR company trying to create publicity for its client in Cape Town, without knowing the writers in our city, as I have experienced from African Sky Media in Johannesburg as well!

Other than the fruit salad and yoghurt bowl, there was no offer from KAUAI for us to taste their smoothies, or any of their juices and other products.  The function took more than an hour, and the hosts had not even organised parking vouchers for us, as any other professional PR company using the V&A as a venue would have done.  There was no follow-up nor a thank you for attending!

KAUAI, Shop 1, Union Castle Building, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.  www.kauai.co.za   Twitter: @KauaiSA  Monday – Thursday 8h00 – 21h00; Friday and Saturday 8h00 – 22h00; and Sunday 9h00 – 20h00.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Tel (021) 433-2100, Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook:  click here

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