When it comes to effective branding, we usually fall back on the old frat boy maxim “go hard or go home”. In other words, don’t be ashamed of who you are. If you’re Applebee’s, embrace your own mediocrity! If you’re “extramarital dating site” Ashley Madison, take out an ad to remind everyone how trashy you want to be! If you’re Las Vegas’s Heart Attack Grill, make the most of the fact that a disproportionate number of your biggest fans have, in fact, died of heart disease!
That’s right. Heart Attack Grill–best known for cheeky product names like “Quadruple Bypass Burger” and “Flatliner Fries”, waitresses who dress like sexy ICU nurses and taglines reading “anyone over 350 lbs eats free” and “cash only: because you might die before the check clears”–lost its unofficial spokesman to a heart attack last week. What’s worse, this potential PR disaster comes less than two years after the restaurant’s official spokesman died of the very same cause at the ripe old age of 29. Oh, and one year ago a third customer suffered cardiac arrest while trying to finish that famous massive burger.
Truth in advertising!
The late, lamented John Alleman may have been the world’s greatest “brand advocate”. According to restaurant founder “Doctor Jon” Basso, he would often stand outside the establishment encouraging others to eat there–and he didn’t even ask for payment in return! Basso supposedly warned Alleman to stop frequenting the place so often because “it’s going to kill ya”, but he also loved him enough to put him on the front of the menu and created this Facebook post and video honoring him after his untimely death.
After the company’s last PR disaster, Basso relocated from Arizona to Las Vegas, long known for its “go ahead and kill yourself, see if we care” attitude. How should he respond this time? And although we hate to ask this question, we have to do it: Will this tragedy actually amount to good publicity in the end?