Jun 1, 2018

Branding at Hooters: An owl and orange (lots of it)

Doc's report:

Hooters, a “breastaurant” where Midland Street meets the Saginaw River as you drive or amble east from the west side of town, is not, in the conventional sense, an “unsung bar of Bay City.” It’s one in a chain of some 430.

But my pleasant midweek mid-afternoon there with Harry recently affirmed my conviction that, in our historic city by the bay, all is pleasant, civil and, above all else, even in the face of the oppressive forces of conformity, authentic. 

The panorama east from Hooters’ pristine windows or capacious deck presents a view of  downtown, including St. Laurent Brothers and Jennison Place not available from any other perspective. The Saginaw River flowing north to the bay is affirming in its constancy; and Megan, our waitress, was as competent and pleasant as the late-May afternoon breeze.

My buffalo chicken salad was fresh and delicious, and the restrooms were the cleanest I’ve seen (and that’s the evaluation of a professional janitor).

Harry filled me in on his efforts at backyard gardening. We discussed how the absence of a credible newspaper in our city might invite corruption in our civic institutions. (What! Politics here? I’m shocked! Shocked!)

Bottom line: Hooters is a professional, predictable good time. The cuisine, cleanliness, service, atmosphere, locale -- just fine. I’d encourage everyone looking for those things to visit.

The owls and the orange

Tell me your favorite sports team. Now tell me its mascot and its colors.

Well, there you are. That’s branding. Hooters knows how to brand.

And in an age of entrepreneurship, when all my retired friends, it seems, are starting up cottage enterprises, let’s take a closer look at Hooters. After all, there are almost 100 other bars and

A drink and a friendly napkin
restaurants nearby. Why go there?

First, the owl. Owls are raptors, of course, but so are bald eagles. Lisa Simpson reminds us that there’s more to owls than wisdom.

I remember fondly the barn owls of my youth, at my grandmother’s farm in Reese, and my first chill of horror in the theater, when Lady Macbeth hears “the owl that shrieked, the fatal bellman,/Which gives the stern’st good-night,” as her husband is murdering their king, and friend, and guest.

Barely a month goes by at bar trivia without my being asked to name Harry Potter’s owl (Hedwig).

And I don’t have to remind the loyal reader of this blog that it was Hegel who observed that “The owl of Minerva flies only at twilight.” In other words Minerva, the goddess of wisdom, sends her messenger forth only as civilization declines. The decay of your civilization is the price you pay for the painful lessons of loss. All defeats can be explained in two words: “Too late.”

“Hooters” is also an example of onomatopoeia, a word that sounds like the word it describes: An owl’s call sounds like “hoot.”

So, if you are branding a new endeavor, say, pick an immediately recognizable animal that symbolizes the service you’re offering.

At Hooters, the owls are everywhere. My research tells me that a group of owls is called a “parliament.” Maybe that explains all the City Hall types there when Harry and I visited in the middle of the week in the middle of the afternoon.

Next, the color

The day Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married, May 19, I visited my daughters Elizabeth and Katie in Manhattan, and met Katie’s boyfriend, Pete. Like the prince, he’s a

Orange restroom doors (and odd signs)
handsome “ginger,” meaning red-haired. Pete went to Syracuse, whose mascot is the Syracuse Orange.

Long story short, I started seeing orange everywhere: in my breakfast drink, sunsets, words that don’t rhyme, robins’ breasts, professional baseball team (Detroit Tigers).

So by the time I met Harry at Hooter’s, I was viewing the world through orange-tinted lenses. (Again, the frequent visitor to this blog will be familiar with Henri Bergson’s observation that “The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.”

That’s the second half of their branding strategy. Not just the owl. The orange. It’s everywhere.

Here are 10 orange things I saw at Hooters:

  • The roof
  • The pylons in the parking lot and the deck
  • Carry-out bags
  • Walls
  • High-tech exposed air ducts
  • Aprons on the kitchen staff
  • Picnic tables
  • Glasses
  • Doors on the restrooms
  • Bar stool seats
In addition, the shorts and the lettering on the shirts of the waitstaff also are orange. Talk about “The Oranging of America.” Well, that’s branding for you.

But I was “oranged out” after our visit to Hooters. I thought I’d come home and chill with a little CNN.

But no exit. There he was: the leader of the free world. TMO: Too Much Orange.

I’m afraid, gentle reader, that the owl of Minerva has taken flight.


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