Free Fries With Hillbilly Steak

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Originally published, September 30, 2009

"Free Fries With Hillbilly Steak," the sign at the Flying Dog Cafe in Nelsonville, OH. Photo by Joshua Platt.

“Free Fries With Hillbilly Steak,” the sign at the Flying Dog Cafe in Nelsonville, OH. Photo by Joshua Platt.

When I first moved to Ohio, I often spent time explaining to East Coast friends and family that Columbus was not a backwater town.

We have everything “the city” (a.k.a. – New York) has to offer … great restaurants, extensive cultural attractions, professional sports (what we lack in Yankees, we make up for in Buckeyes), etc. Plus, Columbus is easier to get around, cheaper in which to live, and the people generally treat each other nicer.

I believed what I said. Until today.

While driving to Athens, Ohio, I passed through Nelsonville – most famous for being the home of Rocky Boots (Moose and Squirrel!).

In Nelsonville, we passed the Flying Dog restaurant, and its wonderful sign.

The sign proclaimed … and, in the immortal words of Dave Barry, “I am not making this up!” … “Free Fries With Hillbilly Steak.”

This got me thinking:

  • What, in the name of all that’s holy, is Hillbilly Steak?
  • Do fries, in fact, go well with it?
  • How many accidents has this sign caused, as distracted drivers careen off the road laughing?
  • Would my East Coast friends and family think less of Ohio, or me, if they knew such a culinary delicacy, existed?
  • And, most importantly, would we have time on the way home to stop, take a picture of the sign, and find out, definitively, what is a Hillbilly Steak?

As you can see, we stopped. We photographed. We inquired.

For anyone wondering, a Hillbilly Steak is “a fried bologna sandwich served with a smile.”

I’ll reiterate my opening comment: I saw the sign, and it opened up my mind … to the topic of effective marketing.

Kudos to you, Flying Dog copywriter. P.T. Barnum would be proud.

With five pithy words, your sign did, almost, exactly what it is intended to do.

It influenced my behavior. It motivated me to stop the car. It encouraged me to enter the restaurant. It forced me to interact with the restaurant staff. It very nearly coerced me to open my wallet and make a purchase. And (bonus points!) it got me talking – and texting, blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, etc. – about the Flying Dog Restaurant in Nelsonville, Ohio.

Alas, I may never know the joys of a Hillbilly Steak. As we’d just lunched with our clients, we didn’t partake in this, no doubt, tender vittle. In some ways, that’s disappointing. In other ways, my stomach … and my marketer’s mind … thanks me.

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