The devil isn’t just in the details. He’s in a T-shirt from a restaurant exposing a one-star review.

Thanks to my Pink Goldfish 2.0 co-author David Rendall for sharing this example from Luna Rotisserie. The restaurant is located in Carrboro, North Carolina (about 20-minutes from my office at the Frontier RTP).

Here’s what happened. A group visited the restaurant back in the Spring. Diners were required to wear masks given the state’s executive order. When asked to comply by staff, the group refused to wear masks indoors or eat outdoors maskless on Luna’s large outdoor patio.

Owner Shawn Stokes shared with Drew Jackson of The News & Observer that they left without sampling Luna’s empanadas or Peruvian chicken. “On their way out, the diners swore never to return and promised a scathing online review.”

Days later a one-star rating hit Google from Mama Loula, “This place is full of satanic activity. As free-breathing humans, we were discriminated against, the wait staff refused to serve our laughing, smiling faces. I cannot believe the treatment we received here, as if we were ‘below’ them. If you like freedom, go elsewhere!!”

Most businesses cringe at a one-star rating. They either ignore it, refute it, or try to damage control it by apologizing.

That’s not what the restaurant did. Here’s what Skyler Jay Keiter-Massefski shared on Twitter, “Can we all just appreciate the incredible vives of my new employer taking an absolutely wild one-star review and making it into a t-shirt???” The tweet went viral and now orders for the t-shirt are pouring in from around the world.

A dyslexic may see the word Santa instead of Satan. But you don’t have to have a learning disability to see how Luna leveraged this as a gift by exposing the review.

The brand futurist and author Simon Mainwaring believes “the keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity, and accountability.”

The Pink Goldfish of Exposing harnesses the power of being straightforward, candid, and unapologetic. This flies in the face of traditional marketing that involves highlighting positive features, and repairing or obscuring any negative ones. 

LAST WORD: Good friend and fellow Past President of AMA Triangle Brian McDonald weighed in on the t-shirt tweet, “I like freedom especially when it’s a result from all of us working together for a better society vs. those that claim patriot status but are only defenders of #freeDUMB!”

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

Stan Phelps walks the walk. He stands out in the sea of sameness by modeling his own Differentiated Experience (DX) message: Differentiation isn’t just about what you say, it’s about what you do and, more importantly, how and why you do it. Stan leverages his unique collection of 5,000+ case studies on customer, employee, and brand experience to engage audiences with informative learning-based experiences. He believes purposeful DX wins the hearts of employees and customers, and differentiation ultimately boosts loyalty, retention, referrals, and results.

Find Stan’s in-person and virtual keynotes, workshops, and Goldfish tank programs at