Here is a snippet from my talk about the power of word of mouth. It is the story of Stew Leonard Sr.

I started the Purple Goldfish Project and began a quest to find 1,001 examples.

I didn’t have to go far for inspiration.

Just down the hill from my house was the most profitable grocery store per square foot in the world according to Guinness World Records.

It’s called StewLeonards.

If there is a pinnacle example for this concept of a Purple Goldfish, it would be Stew Leonards.

Who is Stew Leonard?

Stew grew up the son of a dairy farmer in Connecticut. In the 1960s, he began working for the family business.
Clover Farms delivered milk to customers’ homes.

Two events would alter the trajectory of his life and the business.

The first was the decline in demand for milk delivery.

The second was that the family dairy farm was lost to the State. Connecticut invoked eminent domain, taking the farm to build a new highway.

Like being thrown into a global pandemic…. Stew was forced to pivot.

The result was the opening of his first dairy store in 1969.

During the first year the store was open, Stew was asked by the local elementary school principal to speak at a Career Day.

The principal wanted him to talk about the dairy business.

Stew didn’t really see the appeal for kids, but she pressed on and he reluctantly agreed.

That Friday morning, he drove to the school.

As Stew pulled into the parking lot, he immediately knew he was in trouble.

There was a fire truck parked in front of the school with kids climbing on it.

It didn’t get any better when he walked in.

Stew immediately saw a room with an Air Force officer showing a movie about airplanes.

A few classrooms down was a police officer.
He was showing a packed classroom various police equipment and weapons.

Stew proceeded to walk all the way down the hall and found his classroom.

There was a sign on the door: THE MILK BUSINESS

Stew walked into the room to find only 3 kids sitting inside….two of which were the sons of his produce manager.

For the next 30 minutes, Stew talked about the dairy business.

At the end, he thanked the kids.

Stew then reached into his pocket and handed them each a coupon for a free ice cream.

The kids left and Stew waited to present his second session.

He waited and waited…

After 10 minutes, no kids.

After 15 minutes passed, not one kid had arrived.

After 20 minutes though, the principal came rushing in and frantically exclaimed,


This simple story underscores the power of unexpected extras and the effectiveness of word of mouth.

This event would shape Stew’s thinking and approach.

To this day, when you visit Stew Leonards and buy $100 or more in groceries, you get a coupon for a free ice cream.

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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