Branding Lessons from Hot Dogs, Beef and Cheezborgers

I just finished my Facebook “Lunch & Entertainment for today!” series.  What was it all about?  It was a week long celebration of ‘surviving’ the first two years of being a startup, and starting the beginning of the ‘thriving’ journey by enjoying food, work, travel and entertainment all at the same time while embracing uncertainty and achieving successful results! 

This series idea started at a spring training baseball game where everyone knows that hot dogs are as much a fixture of baseball stadiums as the bleachers, gum under the seats, and the national anthem.  The rest took place in the city that the 1986 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off movie takes place…and this business trip kind of felt like that for me! Plus, I ended up with some very interesting branding observations that we can all learn from.

First, I should let you know that hot dogs are not on the top of my food list and usually only enter my world no more than twice a year.  I’m also not a big beef or burger fan, but the company that I was with insisted that we try these famous places…


The Brand Mogul award goes to Hot Doug’s

Hot Doug’s was featured on ‘Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations’ show on Travel Channel…and here is what the writing on the wall states:

“There are no two finer words in the English language than “Encased Meats,” my friend.”

This famous “Encased Meat” Emporium is off the beaten path {$20 cab ride from downtown Chicago.}  In addition to their distance, they have limited hours, only accept cash and collect up to $9 per branded hot dog.  They are even shutting down the restaurant for four days to accept and enjoy an award at the “2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival – Kickoff Party.”

Branding success lesson: Since they consistently deliver high quality, unique products and service, while communicating customer expectations, people will continue to visit from miles away and wait in line, sometimes up to 90 minutes!

The Brand Longevity award goes to Al’s Beef

Al’s Beef was featured on Adam Richman:  Man vs. Food show on the Travel Channel… and here is what the writing on the wall states:

“Keeping our eye on the beef. We have a lot to be proud of and a great legacy to grow and preserve.”

Al’s Beef began back in 1938, brother Al Ferreri and his sister and brother-in-law, Frances and Chris Pacelli, Sr. began developing what is known today as one of the “Top 10 Sandwiches in America,” a “Chicago Food Legend” and “Chicago’s #1 Italian Beef Sandwich,” an honor bestowed upon it by Chicago magazine. They have also been featured in Gourmet magazine, Travel and Leisure magazine, and Esquire Magazine.

Branding success lesson: Since Al’s Beef is totally focused and dedicated to preserving the one thing that they do best, Beef; they have survived and thrived since 1938!

The Brand Experience award goes to Billy Goat Tavern

Billy Goat Tavern was featured on a Saturday Night Live skit on NBC… and here is what the writing on the wall states:

“Enter at your own risk.  Butt in anytime.”

The original Billy Goat Tavern location was “born” in 1934 when Greek immigrant, William “Billy Goat” Sianis, purchased the Lincoln Tavern. Billy Goat bought the tavern for $205, with a check that bounced but was later repaid with sales from the first weekend. When a goat fell off a passing truck and wandered inside, Sianis adopted the goat, grew a goatee, acquired the nickname “Billy Goat.” The Saturday Night Live sketch sums up the consistent brand experience that everyone has and loves:

“A short order cook yells out to incoming patrons: ‘Cheezborger! Cheezborger!  No fries, cheeps! No Pepsi, Coke!’

Branding success lesson:  Since Billy Goat Tavern was authentically and uniquely branded from the beginning based on a real story, along with the founders strong values and personality, the branding legacy can easily continue delivering the consistent branding experience.

Bottom line: The common success theme is passion combined with an unrelenting commitment to excellence.


I hope you are starting to realize that you are communicating your brand every day, in every way. Just be you, fulfill what you promise and always give your best.

Want to learn about branding to grow your business? 

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