The Five Questions With Tia Dobi, Owner and Creative Director, Expand The Brand
December 31, 2010
Tia Dobi and I met on Twitter (which, she reveals in Q5, brings in big bucks). Talking food uncovered this charming marketer’s true grit. Quoting one of her Los Angeles branding clients, “To say that Tia is passionate is like saying blueberries are just blue. She is robust, inspiring, and inventive.” Comment if you feel the same. – WB
Wild River Table #1: Did your mom cook at all? You mentioned in your email that you love to eat but nobody taught you to cook.
I think when we talk culinary arts, Warren, it’s important to come from the right perspective.
For starters, most people think Call Girl is the oldest profession.
Our ancestors’ first career was short order cook.
Then along came controlled fire.
And one lucky so-and-so became the first chef. (Which begs the question, who really invented the ‘low and slow’ approach?)
So our über-obsession with tasty morsels has been around since Day One. Updating the story . . . you’re right about my take on food.
Just rip the motto from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table:
“. . . for people who love to eat.”
Growing up, Warren, I was weaned on a voracious appetite.
Maybe I like feasting more than cooking because my mum ruled the kitchen. She was a kick-assets cook. The key to survival was not to get in her way.
But every once in a while she’d relinquish the reins.
Like the time my family lived in the Hilton Tokyo before we got our place in Japan.
I’m nine years old ordering hot meals every day off a five-star hotel menu.
Zen-like people are waiting on me hand and foot. There’s a steamed towel at the place setting so I can wash my face and hands before dining. Another one arrives when I’m done.
My role? Eat.
I’m a kid, so naturally I’m chowing down the same food daily.
Spongy French toast as thick as a brick.
Macaroni, cheese, and ham soufflé with a crunchy breadcrumb and Parmesan crust baked in its own funky-shaped bowl. (Thirty years later I would learn from Dean & Deluca that’s a ramekin.)
Swiss chocolate in a tea cup. Dripping-red New York strip.
Yet just a preview for what was to come.
It turns out our new neighbor, the Ambassador of Lebanon, threw weekly get-togethers with about twenty tables of buffet.
The mystery meat he had going on—Porchetta, hog, swordfish, squid, shark, octopus, ox, eel, sushi, scallops, pheasant, truffles—pffft!Completely wasted on me.
There was some recognizable stuff.
Should I attack the lamb chops?
Savor the pasta?
Even bother with the salad?
Where should I start and what should I do?
See, now here’s where a sign that said, “Chef’s Recommendations” woulda been a good marketing move.
Well, if there was going to be an end to this dilemma, at least it would be sweet.
I spent most weeks overdosing on crème desserts.
That was my fine dining life as a kid.
My personal dream cuisine industry.
Tia’s tabletop when she was a kid.
Lamb wins hands-down over ox, eel or squid.
The precedent was set.
While every other dirt-poor co-ed was on the meal plan, I was on the steak and lobster plan.
After graduation, I worked in the film industry. That’s where they bring the food to you.
So, no, I can’t really say anybody taught me to cook.
Energetically, good cuisine finds me.
Maybe I have some sort of food gene Attractor Factor.
Years later it happened again in The Big Apple.
One of my clients handled public relations for name-brand authors. Some were chefs.
At my first meeting with the owner he says to me, “Tia D., you can have as many cookbooks as you want. Take some home with you.”
Now, I had never, ever accepted free product from a client.
The next time I go in, I’m sporting pull-along luggage. In two trips I amassed an international collection.
Unlike this other New Yorker, I didn’t jump on the cooking bandwagon. But I learned lots reading the recipes, studying the glossaries, and drooling over the pictures.
Ask me my top ten values; food is my first three.
Maybe I shouldn’t reveal this, but . . . my bed is in my kitchen.
I dream of the day food comes straight out of my computer.
Texans may be relaxed, but there’s nothing casual ‘bout their steak ‘n seafood.
Wild River Table #2: Tell me about your sixth-grade food class. It sounds really interesting.
Oh it was, very.
I blame it all on the mindset of my academy, The American School in Japan. (Pretty much a genius education.)
Imagine a place you go to every day to learn but it’s not drudgery.
No genocide of the imagination.
If you called your teacher “Mom” she would respond with, “Yes dear?”
In addition to their advanced placement courses they offered us revolutionary electives.
The killer class was How To Make A Peanut Butter And Jelly Sandwich®.
Every day for three weeks, a dozen of us six-graders went to school and that’s exactly what we did. We learned how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
We started with breads. We learned about the ingredients, the crops, the climate, the economy, the geography, the technology and the people who made and ate an assortment of raised dough.
Cultural customs, traditions, their names in foreign languages. Transportation, distribution, styles of serving and consumption.
And of course recipes.
Then we studied the same subjects for butters and jams.
On the last day we swarmed the school kitchen and from scratch, made a feast of a dozen different types of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Très bon. PB&J over the top. I was a little concerned about cashew butter, but it turned out O.K. What the heck, thirty years later it’s in every 7-Eleven.
I guess the class was a mixture of cooking, farming, economics, business, history, anthropology, and eating.
ASIJ certainly lives up to its promise: “Developing Compassionate, Inquisitive Learners, Prepared for Global Responsibility.” Definitely my entrée to self-sufficienty and joyful activism.
Today, how food works is very important to me.
Sustainable farming, freedom of choice with what we eat, where our food comes from, how we shop, how much we pay for it.
Joining movements like saving community farms (as documented in the Academy-Award nominated film The Garden), contributing to eco-fests, shopping at local farmers’ markets, understanding the fascinating similarities and differences between virtual reality farming vs. the most widely-practiced profession on Earth.
Yeah. How to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
From soil to stomach™.
I’ve updated the concept, copyrighted the creative and am developing it with a Hollywood team into my second childrens’ television show, expressing the values of community, democracy, local ownership, and education.
The purpose is to help kids appreciate food as “planetary citizens” while teaching an approach to food and cooking that’s about celebrating nature, mindfulness, communion, pleasure and urban ecology.
Wild food stuff, Wild River Table.
If your school doesn’t teach you how to make a PB&J sandwich, you can learn
by joining the 18 million peeps playing FarmVille every single day.
Wild River Table #3: I love Venice California. Do you have a favorite restaurant that you go back to time and time again? What kind of food do they serve? What is your favorite meal there?
My favorite Venice, California cuisine?
The kind you can only get in the street.
I admit, meals on wheels is not my usual thing.
But this story is kind of fun.
Once upon a time, I was a docent at the Contemporary Art Museum in Houston. Every Saturday, I’d lead a group tour of work by artists likeFrank Stella, Rodney Alan Greenblat, and bad boy mixed media guru Billy Al Bengston, (who, when he attended my lecture on his work, said I knew more about him than he did, but that’s another story).
I even managed to sneak comfort food into the mix.
To enhance the experience for the paying customers, I’d give a pop quiz at the end of my talk.
Say the right answer . . . I’d reach into my pocket and throw a tin-foiled treat in your face.
I figure it’s a long shot, but maybe I’ll bump into one of these guys on the street at this event called Abbot Kinney 1st Fridays.
When you arrive on the scene, everybody’s pretty hyped.
In a Who Let The Dogs Out?? kind of way.
They’ve got pricey art, jewelry, clothes, yoga, music, restaurants, baby goods, lawnmowers, espresso. Once I saw somebody walking an albino pig.
I guess it was a pet, I really don’t know.
Some of the establishments promote bargain deals.
Sort of like a mini-Groupon of the night.
And right in the middle of all this she-la-la . . . are fifty BIG whimsical trucks.
Fun food and fun art. What’s missing, perhaps, but a little
Obey Giant and Mr. Brainwash?
Lined up like a Mardis Gras food parade with fare meant to inspire.
Grub could be from:
Ahn-Joo, Barbie’s Q, Coolhaus, Fishlips Sushi, Greasy Wiener, Green Truck on The Go, India Jones, Kogi BBQ, Let’s Be Frank, Mandoline Grill, Munchie Machine, Papas Tapas, Phamish, SliceTruck, Sprinkles Cupcake Van, The Grilled Cheese Truck, Tropical Shave Ice, or Vizzi Truck.
Customers nosh like stacked sardines. Talking with their mouths full, feeding each other bites.
I can’t say for sure that everybody’s swapping phone numbers or saliva, but . . .
Fingers are definitely being sucked and gasps of “oohs” and “ahhs” can be heard by passersby.
Between the two narrow sidewalks and the cheek-by-jowl bodies, hanging at First Fridays is intimate and fun because you’re in a human pinball machine, helplessly bouncing into old friends and making new ones.
Some foodies consider these fiestas a total mind, body, and soul experience.
I prefer to think of them as a hotbed for the modern girl’s four “F”s lifestyle.
Food, fashion, fine art, and pro-creation.
Haven’t spotted any internationally-known guerilla painters yet, but who knows?
Maybe they’ll design a food truck, like the architecturally inspired Coolhaus, which broke even with an initial $15,000 investment its opening weekend.
Actually, my favorite Venice restaurant is Hal’s Jazz Bar and Grill.
It’s on the same street.
Just beyond the shiny tailpipes.
Coolhaus is a tricked-out U.S. postal wagon with a Barbie-pink custom roof,
shiny wheel rims (acquired at an auto-body shop in East L.A.), and lots of photos of
famous buildings, including Louis Kahn’s concrete-heavy Salk Institute in San Diego.
Wild River Table #4: Do you enjoy wine?
Does a bear shit in the woods?
I love wine and thank you for asking.
In my family, “holiday” had its own season. Halloween through Easter. And on special occasions my mother would serve all the kids glasses of water with a shot of wine.
My first rosé.
When it came to entertaining, mom was the hostess with the mostess. Stocked bar all the time.
She sent me off to South African school in the mid 60’s with my lunch in a cloth bag she got from my dad.
It was deep purple.
And very soft.
Now, you’d think the words “Crown Royal” embroidered in bright yellow and swinging from my delicate first-grade wrist would raise some brows.
Each week mum would toss my “lunch pail” in the wash along with dad’s hankies. Every once in a while he’d give me a brand new one.
Hell, I purpled bagged it at the school cafeteria for the next ten years.
You know what they call that today?
Recycling, branding, and probably illegal in American school.
Tia learned the benefits of recycling (and good taste) early on;
mum packed her school lunch in a Crown Royal® bag.
As far as I can tell, this is what set the stage for my world of easy elixirs.
Like champagne and ice cream.
I’m especially fond of an over-sized scoop of French Vanilla or a Cucumber Gelato in Almond Creek Sparkling Wine or a stiff brute. (The latter having a few connotations and we won’t get into that.)
However, any ice cream and any champagne will do.
For me, when it comes to spirits, it’s all good.
Nobody’s probably said this yet on Millionaire Matchmaker but, single or married, “Ply me with wine,” is savvy linguistics.
In fact, I encourage everyone reading to pick up a couple of bottles of Espiral Vinho Verde.
You can get it at Trader Joe’s for less than five bucks.
Grab your partner and douse yourselves in it.
Then lick it all off.
It’s fun I swear. And the places you’ll go.
What else is nifty is that champagne with the gold flecks in it. Like confetti. People go nuts when they see it. Go to a fancy smancy liquor store. They’ll have it.
You’ll be the life of the party this New Year’s guaranteed.
Y’know whoever said “Water is for bathing” Warren?
“I enjoy cooking with wine, sometimes I even put it in the food I’m cooking,”
says Julie Child.” But would she ever suggest, “Douse yourself with it”?
And what’s Gary Vee drinking this New Year’s eve?
Wild River Table #5: Social media brought us together. (I’m thrilled to have the opportunity of meeting you!) Do you have a social media strategy?
Since the purpose of communication is to make change, I figure I’m batting a thousand because in two thousand and nine I made forty thousand dollars off one Tweet.
Making social media the greatest direct response mechanism in the world.
That’s my strategy. Think Radical ROI™. Anyone can profit from it—isn’t that thrilling?
Right now, Claude Hopkins, (Godfather of direct response and author of the brilliant free book
Scientific Advertising), is dying to come back from the grave. So he can jump on the social media marketing bandwagon.
Everything Hopkins preached: knowing your customer, striking a responsive chord, speaking in simplistic terms, presenting a product’s features and benefits through emotional storytelling, meticulously testing and measuring your response—essentially personable salesmanship—is doable with social media, that, thanks in part to technology, pulls Radical ROI™ better than ever before.
Direct response is an approach that solicits an immediate reaction from the audience by using a ‘call to action’ in the messaging.
Decades earlier, what Hopkins did to make money for his clients in formats like direct mail, radio, and infomercial TV (using certain barcodes and 800 numbers to track results), is proving to work like gangbusters in social media.
No surprise there.
Psychologically, human behavior doesn’t change. We all still go about our daily lives with the same needs, fears and joys.
Social media just made connecting to that behavior much easier. And a million times better.
The beauty of social media to grow a brand is in its [messaging] relevance, connectivity and insta-respond-ability.
Go see the movie The Social Network and you’ll see what I mean.
What Hopkins didn’t have—and what we do—is the ability to hone in on the DNA of a prospect and feed her messages that match her specific needs.
This is because her web profile contains bits of worthwhile information that social media allows us to make good use of.
The info on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook profile determines
if he’s a viable match for your social media marketing message.
Technology is the great enhancer.
Free social media tools allow us to plaster our message all over the marketplace while spoon-feeding our customer the exact content he or she wants.
I call it Syndication Domination™.
People who receive helpful information that benefits their life are happy.
It’s pretty easy when you now how. You’re doing the right thing, Warren, with this blog. That’s where you want to start because it’s the nucleus of your social media, the central hub where you build your most important business asset: your opt-in list!
You want to use your blog to distinguish yourself as an expert providing valuable content. Of course you want to make money from it, too. Even that’s easy!
To learn how to blog for profits, anyone can benefit from this new online class starting real soon — February 1, 2011:
Something else about social media that would be helpful for your readers to know is that, with the exception of photos,videos, and audios, social media networking is one hundred percent text. (And even the former need written scripts!)
So if you really want to win at the shelf, be a hypnotic writer.
Hypnosis is anything that holds your attention. Enjoying a good movie, good book, good food or good sex is a type of hypnosis. It puts you in a relaxed state, or trance.
That’s what makes hypnotic writing, irresistible . . . communication that’s clear, concise, stimulating, and effective. It gets you to remember—and act—on what you’ve just read.
For clients, that active response is money in the bank.
Those food trucks that I mentioned earlier?
They strike a responsive chord in their Followers’ minds. By Tweeting about their food fare in a way the customer wants to hear, spicing the deal with constant coupons and cross-promotions (like NaanStop hooking up with the Santa Anita Racetrack), shouting out the street address where they’re going to be and when, then wham!
Peeps show up eagerly waving money.
Companies who are highly skilled at saying all the right things and being at the right place at the right time.
They don’t convince or beseech. They use storytelling that resonates with emotions in the readers’ hearts which in turn ignites action. You see, the the only thing that incites physical behavior IS emotion.
File that, it’s worth gold.
Lemme wrap with this thought:
Of all the amazing, mouth-watering, soul-satisfying culinary choices we have on the planet, don’t you think that, if we can make those five products the most popular with social media, it’s possible to keep Monsanto from patenting seeds?
Like I said, social media is the greatest direct response mechanism in the world.
Just depends how you use it.
Starbucks has 19,010,920 Facebook Fans.
In the five seconds it takes you to read Tia’s bio, they’ll have *many* more.
Tia Dobi is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and marketing consultant providing persuasive social media, publicity, and direct response copywriting to induce ROI without pissing your prospects off. Formerly she worked in film and video production with companies like 60 Minutes, HBO, MTV, National Geographic and line producing television commercials. Currently, she is penning a book for the Kindle called Copywriting For Twitter Impact. You can find her on the Web at http://www.linkedin.com/in/tiadobi, follow her free marketing and copywriting tips on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/TiaDobi, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone (310) 839-2468. P.S. Don’t forget to eat.
Happy New Year Tia.. Happy New Year All!
Warren Bobrow is a mixologist, chef, and writer known as the Cocktail Whisperer. In 2010, Bobrow founded “Wild Table” for Wild River Review and serves as the master mixologist for several brands of liquor, including the Busted Barrel rum produced by New Jersey’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition.
Bobrow has published three books on mixology and written articles for Saveur magazine, Voda magazine, Whole Foods-Dark Rye, Distiller, Beverage Media, DrinkupNY and other periodicals. He writes the “On Whiskey” column for Okra Magazine at the Southern Food and Beverage Museum and has written restaurant reviews for New Jersey Monthly.
His first book Apothecary Cocktails, was published in September 2013; and immediately went into a second printing. In 2014, he published Whiskey Cocktails. He was born and raised in Morristown, NJ, on a Biodynamic farm.
Warren Bobrow in this Edition
COCKTAIL WHISPERER, Editor
Apothecary Cocktails: Mexican Sleep Cure
Billy Reid: Bourbon, Branch and a Splash of Southern Lore
Blue Hill/Stone Barns: Time Exists in Harmony with Nature
The Cocktail Whisperer asks Anthony Bourdain Four Questions about Scotch
The Five Questions: Andrew Bell, American Sommelier
The Five Questions Catherine Reynolds
The Five Questions: Lincoln Henderson (Master Distiller)
The Five Questions: Natalie West (Foppiano Wines)
The Five Questions: Randall Grahm
The Five Questions: Sustainable Sushi
A Glass of Bourbon, Branch, and History
Midnight in the Bronx: Visit to Hunt’s Point Wholesale Fish Exchange
A Modern Day Absinthe Alchemist
A Summer Cocktail Party for Artie Shaw
Tales of the Cocktail: New Orleans, Louisiana