Mike Peacock, aka The Flying Pie Guy, has a unique perspective on marketing a product — in his case, the Australian meat pie. New Jersey-based Peacock grew up with the savory treat in Australia, where it's the equivalent of the American cheeseburger. But Aussie meat pies were largely unknown in the U.S. when he started his now-successful food business. We recently spoke with Peacock about marketing a product he loved but that few Americans even knew existed.
When you started out, how did U.S. customers respond to your Aussie meat pies?
We just wanted to get these pies in front of people. We made connections and became a member of Rotating Chefs, which takes all the top food trucks in the Tri-State area and places them at huge corporate sites for lunches. So we hit a large group of people in a very short amount of time.
We found that we got the best response from well-traveled people, who'd maybe been to Australia. We had Aussie, Kiwi, British, South African, Irish and Scottish customers who knew exactly what meat pies were, and they started coming from far and wide to find us.
Were there also customers who just wanted to try something they'd never eaten before?
Yes. There's a very large group of "foodies" out there. They want to try something different. They don't want the same old hamburger, hot dog, salads or whatever options. These people want to try something new, and once they tried our meat pies, they kept coming back.
How are you innovating the Australian meat pie to meet local tastes?
We wanted to adapt the product for people's taste buds here. For instance, we offer a pulled pork pie. We make our barbecue sauce from scratch and everything else. Barbecue is something people know well.
Another of our most popular pies is what we call a Trady, short for tradesman. It's a very hearty pie: It has beef, bacon and cheddar. The key word is "bacon." Anybody sees bacon on the menu, they're like, "Boom, I want that!"
How are you getting feedback? Is it just observing people and talking to them?
My all-time favorite way is when we go to an event. When the customer comes to the truck, buys a pie, walks away and then comes all the way back to tell me how good it was. We'll sometimes ask them if we can shoot a video of them telling us how good the pie was, then we'll post that through social media.
So you're using social media to help build your customer base?
In the food truck industry, social media is everything. I had no idea how powerful Twitter was. So I opened Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. We use social media to educate. We try to post different pictures of the insides of the pies, the outsides of the pies, what the pies consist of, how we make our crust and what we do differently.
Social media also allows us to engage industry experts. We engaged Peter Genovese. He's a major food critic who has been with the Star-Ledger for 30 years ... He contacted us through Twitter and said, "Hey, give me a quick video of your pies. I love your product and I'll put your video out there." Other food bloggers started to catch on and included us on lists of top 10 food trucks in New Jersey.
How is the truck itself a marketing tool?
It gets noticed everywhere we go. For instance, we picked up the Philadelphia 76ers as a client two weeks ago because the assistant coach saw the truck on the road and he contacted me. They have an Australian player. Things like that just pop up based on the truck. We had it beautifully wrapped, and we had the brand designed by Quaker City Mercantile in Philadelphia, the same company that does designs for Guinness beer and Puma sneakers. They were very expensive but well worth it for our marketing efforts.