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|Using the Vegan word in business
Posted By Donna Oakes
Hello Marisa, I recently read a post by Seth Godin in which he talked about the fact that part of Lula Apothecary's success was due to the fact that they didn't have vegan specfic wording on their signs (initially mostly due to not having enough money for a lot of words)- and so more people came in and simply experienced deliciousness. This got me thinking about my store (and it got another vegan business owner who has a bakery thinking about her business). We have both seen people look at our signs and walk by or say something about the word vegan and walk by. Possibly if they came in, they would be won over (at least a little bit) by the bakery's yummy products and my store's vegan footwear, etc. So my question to you and your readers is this - are we doing veganism (and our businesses) a disservice by using the word vegan?
That is a super intriguing and important question, and I wish there were a way to know. I love Cow Jones Industrials, and as a vegan, it's so heartwarming to see the vegan-specific wording in the window, especially in such a small town as Chatham, NY. I think even having the word there with beautiful vegan shoes, bags, etc. is a form of activism and awareness-raising.
Now, in business terms, if your store has a large, highly motivated niche customer base (which yours does) and if you're in a community that has a large veg population, it should do quite well. But if you aren't located in a very veg-friendly community and you're dependent on reeling in people who are not in this niche market, I could see the possibility that the "V" word might alienate some of them because they don't identify as such. Before I went veg, I only went to veg restaurants with veg friends; I never went on my own because it just "wasn't me." Would it have been different if the restaurant was veg but wasn't labeled as such? I'm not sure.
Anecdotally, I know that several vegan NYC cafes and restaurants use the word "vegetarian" because it sounds more familiar/less limiting than "vegan." Some owners and managers of these establishments have told me that their clientele is mostly comprised of non-veg*ns. One owner whose restaurants are doing well has expressed her disappointment with how few customers have said that they've been "converted" to veg*nism as a result of trying veg food. She wanted the restaurant to be a form of activism yet hasn't seen concrete results. So, I wonder if alone, vegan businesses are enough to spread the veg word. I'm doubtful. But I also believe that without them, veg educational campaigns wouldn't be nearly as successful because vegan options would seem so very limited and the lifestyle would seem so difficult. We need both.
I do know that there are people within the vegan movement who feel strongly that we should embrace the word "vegan," while others think that as a society, we're not quite there yet, and we should meet people closer to where they are and use words such as "vegetarian" or "plant-based." I suppose it depends on who you're targeting: the vegans or the potential vegans.
Those are just my thoughts. I'd love to hear the perspectives of other Vegans at Heart. (Please feel free to leave a comment for Donna!)
Posted By Admin