Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Wonder how Holsten's is making out (now that The Sopranos have made them famous)

If you are one of few people who has no interest in the Sopranos, or who hasn't seen the final episode, here's a little background. (Warning: semi-spoiler ahead.)

The final scene of the final episode of The Sopranos takes place in a real, actual diner-y type of local restaurant in New Jersey. The restaurant is called Holsten's, and most people have probably eaten at a place just like it at one point or another. Think counters. Think jukebox. Think burgers. Think onion rings. (Which actually aren't on the Side Order menu - but I'm sure they will be.)

Of course, after the final Sopranos episode, you're probably thinking other stuff, too, but that's another story.

Well, I woke up this morning, baby, not thinking got myself a gun*(which is as likely to happen to me as a trip to a place like the Bad-a-Bing, the strip joint where Tony Soprano's crew hangs out). No, as a marketer I was, instead, thinking about the ultimate product placement for Holsten's, where this magnificent TV series ended.

I imagine that by now all sorts of fans are planning on a pilgrimage to Holsten's. By this weekend, I'm sure that they'll be converging on it in droves - if they aren't already.

Do you think that Holsten's will be happy that Carm decided not to make manicotti and to have the last supper of the series at Holsten's?

If I know TV fans, they will be lining up outside Holsten's for years to come, which may make the Holsten's folks (temporarily) happy. All that new business.  All those quarters dropped in the jukeblox to play Journey's Don't Stop Believing. And all those souvenirs. (Can't you just see the t-shirt: Holsten's: Onion Rings to Die for. Or not.) 

The whole thing will, of course, royally tick off all of their current, loyal clientele who will no longer be able to get near the place.

So, will Holsten's regret that they were the scene of the crime, metaphorically speaking, of course, as there was no crime. Or will the big bucks they are going to no doubt make from this make up for the crazy hassle that they're going to experience?

I know all this up close and personal because I live just down the street from the Cheers' bar. To this day - how many years after the show went off the air ? - there are still tourists beating a path to see where Carla waitressed and Norm hung out.  Unfortunately, from a local customer perspective, the success of Cheers altered what had been a nice local spot to a not-so-nice local tourist trap. Fortunately, the piano bar/restaurant above the pub has been somewhat restored but, unfortunately, us old-timers have gotten so used to not going there that we still don't. Not that the owner cares: the loss of our custom was certainly not worth the millions he made in t-shirt, caps, and shot-glass sales over the years. And not that the owner wasn't savvy enough to buy a nice little neighborhood restaurant around the corner where all us locals eat. Excellent service, unbelievably good chili and terrific salmon. And, for us regulars, a place where everyone knows your name).

The Cheers' bar no longer has the lines around the corner that they had in their prime-time.  But an awful lot of people apparently still want to see where Sam Malone "worked." I can't tell you how many times I'm asked for directions.

So it will be with Holsten's.

I'm sure that their business will grow colossally. They'll make a lot of money. And when it all dies down, they may or may not get their regulars back.

But that's marketing for you. Sometimes you just have to take advantage of the opportunity in front of you, no matter how fleeting, no matter what a challenge it is to your "core business."

Of course, as a B2B product marketer, I haven't had to worry a whole heck of a lot about product or company placements.

The closest I came was when I worked at Wang Labs, where I was the product manager for Shark, a stock market ticker and analytics application. Our claim to fame was that Shark documentation appeared on the cubicle shelves of some of the traders in the movie Wall Street. While the movie came out during my tenure at Wang, the product placement was before my - and Wang's - time.  Shark had been a Walsh-Greenwood product that was acquired by Wang to run on its mini-computers  - in those dark ages when there were mini-computers and when it was a big deal for non-traders/non-brokers to have access to real-time data.

When Wall Street came out, my group declared an off-site and marched over to the local theater to watch it, madly cheering when the Shark documentation appeared. (Was there an inflatable Shark, too? I can't remember.) In any event, the product placement did us not one iota of good. Maybe that was because our version of Shark was caged in a Wang mini that nobody wanted.

What's likely to happen to Holsten's got me thinking about Shark. In Gordon Gekko's famous words:

...greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind.

And, if you add that it has also marked more than a few downfalls, this makes not so bad an epitaph for The Sopranos, no?

Good luck to Holsten's.


*I don't wanna hafta explain all that much Soprano-ese here, but this is part of their theme song.


jrh said...

"Woke up this morning and -- went to one of the few gun shops left in the state, applied-for a permit, interviewed with and got turned denied approval for a permin from my police chief, had my attorney sue the town for violating my second ammendment rights, finally got a permit, went through a back-ground check, got finger printed, completed a state-certified gun saftey class and waited my mandatory 14-days - and got myself a gun!"

Sorry for the social commentary...couldnt resist..again its the libertarian in me...

Ive done a bunch of product placement and it really does work in terms of driving business. The key is to either 1) select only authentice vehicles that will enhance your brand image ie: only put your outerwear in Warren Miller films to make them seem very exclusive by association, or 2) say screw it and go for maximum exposure.

In the sopranos case, I think that they prob did a little of both, given that Holsteins is exactly the type of place the sopranos are likely to have a family dinner and your probably right that their tourist and souvineer sales will probably double their revenues over hte next 6 months.

The Crows nest in gloucester experienced a similar situation after the Perfect Storm came out.

The thing there was that the regulars at the Crows nest are a little less welcoming than your average beacon hill neighborhood pub and you dont get often get people stickign around much longer than to buy a tee-shirt and move along. Lets just say your more likley to see people who look like norm at cheers than people who look like George Clooney and Dianne Lane at Crows nest

Anonymous said...

Corrections: Onion rings are on the side orders and their $2.50 and there are no jukeboxes. I live around the corner and a lot of tourists have been there the past week. Over 50 lbs of rings sold. (maybe more)

Maureen Rogers said...

No jukebox at Holsten's? No Journey? Say it isn't so. And they need to update their online menu - no onion rings that I could see! Any bets on how long before you're back to normal and the regulars get back in?

And George Clooney doesn't hang out at the Crow's Nest?