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In Pictures: Secret to poutinerie's success? Stickers and social media

Deft social media skills - including hours online building a following on Facebook and Twitter - and clever marketing that plays on 80’s nostalgia and includes stickers of Smoke, have contributed to the poutinerie’s red-hot success

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Ryan Smolkin says he dreamed up the idea for Smoke’s Poutinerie – the first food joint ever to focus solely on poutine – more than a decade ago. He points to his upbringing in the Ottawa Valley, which borders La Belle Provence, as partially to blame for his love affair with the traditional Quebecois dish.

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Besides the lunch and dinner crowds, Smoke's caters to the the university, after-bar crowd that descends around joint 1:30 to 3 a.m.

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The company opened its first location in Toronto in 2009. And while the company its popularity is growing, Mr. Smolkin says he’s barely spent a dime on advertising in Bryan Borzykowski’s article ‘Lots of Facebook friends, one poutine empire’

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Small business marketing has never been this simple, says Mr. Smolkin, who admits there would be no way he’d be this successful in the era before the Internet.

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With a little creativity and a few dollars, entrepreneurs can now easily get the word out about their company to the masses.

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Deft social media skills - including hours online building a following on Facebook and Twitter - and clever marketing that plays on 80’s nostalgia have contributed to the poutinerie’s red-hot success.

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Stickers and social media were inexpensive marketing tools he employed, but really put him on the map.

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The stickers cost pennies to make; he just had to pay someone $10 an hour to put them up across the city.

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They feature Smoke - an enigmatic black and white stamp-of-a-face both familiar and foreign. You’ve probably noticed stickers of him splashed across billboards and flyers. across your town.

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“People started recognizing the face," he says. “We would start it and then it self-perpetuates from there.” He now orders stickers by the millions and hands them out free at restaurants.

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Mr. Smolkin says he has no plans to launch a traditional marketing campaign and has never used traditional media - such as radio, TV or print - to advertise his brand.

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“It’s all about branding,” says Mr. Smolkin, who underscores the importance of Canadiana in his company’s logo. One only has to look to the overwhelming use of lumberjack plaid in the design, and the glass bottles of Pop Shoppe stocked in the fridge to feel both patriotic and nostalgic.

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Many small-business owners are now turning to social media to get the word out about their company. While that’s worked for Mr. Smolkin, he says it took months before anyone paid attention to his Facebook page.

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For Smoke’s, it comes down to the product – its poutine has topped numerous food lists – but the stickers and Facebook posts continue to bring people into his stores.

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'Everyone knows our brand - that's what it's all about...and we're taking it worldwide.'

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