In April of 1993 I drove from Philadelphia to Spring Hill, Florida, a small town right outside of Tampa; I left in the middle of what they labeled the storm of the century. As I drove down the I-95 the snow was coming down pretty quickly and most people probably would have just turned around and gone home and waited a day or two, but not me, I told people I would be in Florida in two days, and by God, I had every intention of keeping that promise, regardless of the risks. As I drove into Delaware the snow was coming down harder and faster than I have ever seen in this part of the country, and the driving was slow, but I continued driving for several hours into passing through Virginia and finally into North Carolina, where the real fun started.
If you were thinking that once I got out of the eastern states into the south that the weather would improve and the driving conditions would be better, you couldn’t be further from being right; while the snow stopped, but the wind increased, and blew faster and faster and faster until what seemed to me to be hurricane like conditions, mind you never having been in a hurricane, this was just an uneducated guess. As I drove through North and South Carolina, the wind was blowing so hard, that my little Honda Accord was being tossed around like a bee bee in a jar. I’m thinking to myself as I struggle to keep my car from veering into the other lane that while this is difficult, it’s probably the worst of it, and I am handling it ok. Yeah right. It got worse. At some point in the middle of the night, with the wind still howling like mad, the freezing rain began, coming down in sheets and creating an ice highway for the next two or three hundred miles. I noticed everyone was pulling over and stopping, even the cops, which I probably should have taken as a sign to pull over for a while; do you think I did that? Noooo. I kept driving on the bed of ice with the wind blowing me all over the place, albeit I was only moving about 25 miles an hour, but moving I was.
I drove until about 4 a.m. when I decided I really needed some sleep. So I found a little hole in the wall motel and I got a room and I slept for two hours, got up, bought some coffee, and hit the road. The ice was still there and the wind was still blowing, and so my journey continued. After about two hours, the ice started to disappear and I was left with just the howling wind trying to blow me into the next county. I spotted a rest stop up ahead and decided I would take a break for a few minutes as I was feeling a bit tired. As I pulled in I noticed that there were very large trees here, one in front of each parking slot and the wind was blowing so hard that it was knocking the trees over, making it impossible for me to park without risking having a tree fall on top of my car. So I kept driving, and I drove through South Carolina and Georgia and sometime in the middle of the second night I crossed the Florida border. I was really tired but I figured I was almost there I didn’t want to stop now as I only had around three hours to go and the wind had finally let up a little bit. So I kept driving, and about halfway through Florida I got very tired and I was fighting falling asleep at the wheel, when I spotted a little pink diner and thought I could eat and I need to rest.
So I pulled into the parking lot, got out of car stretching my aching legs and walked into the diner. I found a table and sat down putting my head in my hands and closed my eyes which I didn’t even open when the waitress asked me if I would like some coffee I just grunted “uh huh”. A couple minutes later she brought my coffee and as I lifted my head to thank her and fix my coffee, I was suddenly jolted awake. My waitress was completely naked. I mean not a stitch of clothing, just her shoes. What the hell was going on, did I drive into the twilight zone? As my extremely fatigued brain was trying to comprehend this odd situation I looked around and noticed all of the waitresses were naked. Not quite able to speak I just sat there staring at the waitress like a coma patient; finally the waitress put it together and said to me “You didn’t know this was a nude diner did you?” I sure didn’t I told her, I was so tired I barely noticed the sign. She asked me if I still wanted to eat, I said “uh yeah”. What guy on the planet doesn’t want to eat breakfast while a bunch of hot naked women are walking around? And no they were not on the menu, they just served the food.
I looked around and noticed people were starting to come in, by the time I had finished my breakfast it was around 7 a.m. and the place was getting packed. I asked my waitress, my completely naked waitress, if they get this busy every day? Oh yes my completely naked waitress said, “We are packed for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and then most of the evening up until around 10 or so, and on the weekend all night sometimes, they come in after the bars and clubs and have something to eat and admire the scenery”. They were known for miles around and that people drove from miles away to come eat said my completely naked waitress.
So you are probably wondering why I told this strange yet probably amusing story right? Because in every business it is important to brand your product, without a brand, you are just another business among many. There are lots of diners out there, and most of them are pretty much the same, nothing spectacular about them, just a place to get a greasy burger, get a coke, a sundae, some eggs, toast and coffee, they are all the same. All but for this one little diner somewhere in Florida that made itself different from its competitors by having completely naked waitresses, and while what they did was bold, and some probably didn’t like what they did, one thing is for certain, you will never confuse them with their competition. They branded their product, their diner, but using, yes you guessed it, completely naked waitresses to serve the food.
I may not be here the rest of the week, I have an odd desire to go to Florida……..
“Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others.”
“If you can, be first. If you can’t be first, create a new category in which you can be first.”
Al Ries & Jack Trout, The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, 1994