When Hooters debuted the chain back in the 1980s, the uproar and raised eyebrows were the best PR, the company could get. Now, the home of wings and little orange shorts are an international brand, and their success is beginning to spawn a plethora of copycats hoping to cash in. The common parlance for these eateries that add a hint of blatant sex appeal to their pub fare is “breastaurant,” a moniker most places are willing to wear with pride.
But it will be tougher for the newcomers to achieve the success Hooters has. When they opened their doors, Hooters was celebrated and derided by all the usual suspects, loud and long. Then Lynne Austin became the “face” of the company, turning the girl next door into an international marketing icon. Hooters became so commonplace, that they began losing that “offensive” edge.
Then Austin graced the pages of Playboy, bringing sexy back while Justin Timberlake was still in grade school.But the suburban mystique of Hooters had set in. Now many folks in Middle America see it as just another wing joint or sports bar. It’s not uncommon to see kids sitting with mom and dad, coloring menus while servers in skimpy outfits deliver pitchers beer to the construction workers over at the next table. Modern Americana.
Hooters has managed to remain popular and keep some of its edge, but competitors have chosen to push the envelope even more to capture the same magic Hooters found in the late 80s. Smaller tops, shorter skirts, and saucier waitresses. They are nudging the line in an effort to grab market share, but will it work before they go too far?This dynamic is one all brands must consider in their PR campaigns. People grow accustomed to things. Especially consumers. What got their attention – good or bad – a few years (or even months) ago, now doesn’t even register a second glance. Successfully negotiating this dynamic requires a long-term brand development plan. Not just new outfits.
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