A kick from a goat did the trick! – SCN Encourager 7/22/13

My good spirits have returned.

Encouraging you and other school communicators is not a problem for me today. (And yes, I know it’s a Monday…)

All it took was a one-day roundtrip excursion via train to Chicago over the weekend.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 2.57.01 PMWhile seated comfortably with my wife Cindy in the train car, I thought about how stupid I was to have allowed Howdy Doody’s million-dollar-plus net worth get under my skin.

What the heck was I thinking? No one should be this superficial.

From this day forward, I’m adopting H.L. Mencken’s advice about how to evaluate your career status in the light of your earnings.

He said, “As long as I make $100 more than my brother-in-law, I’m happy.”

Wise words.

After some good “think time” on the train, my perspective improved and I resolved to stop sweating the money stuff.

But I couldn’t resolve to “stop sweating” entirely, though.

The temperature was a humid 93°.

Once we arrived on Michigan Avenue, my mood perked up.

There was the hub-bub of the people – all sizes, all generations – and the attraction of all of the attractions.

For me, at least.

Screen Shot 2015-03-29 at 2.58.30 PMWhile I didn’t make it to the Apple Store as quickly as I would’ve liked, I overcame being dragged to “Crate & Barrel” and “Room & Board” with a calm and patient demeanor fully befitting the wimp that I am.

Eventually though, Cindy set me free to wander, and I made it to the Apple Store with the eager wide-eyed excitement usually reserved for my favorite bakery back in Holland.

Attempting to describe for you Apple’s acclaimed customer experience and its great-marketing-in-action tangibles is almost impossible, despite the evident “intentionality” that drives its success.

So it bugged me that I failed to glean some actual marketing takeaways as Cindy and I walked four blocks south to the well-known Billy Goat Tavern for a late lunch.

And there – while eating, of course – I marveled at all of the magnificent marketing elements all around me.BillyGoat Shot 2013-07-21 at 10.57.09 AM

I could hardly write my notes on little scraps of paper fast enough.

The general marketing concepts used by the Billy Goat Tavern may be very similar to what we know and promote in our schools, but unless you can serve beer and stay open until 4 a.m., I’m guessing their story is much different than what we are accustomed to as school communicators.

Consider these common marketing components as “lived daily” by the Billy Goat Tavern.

It has a rich HISTORY: The BGT proudly points out that it was born in 1934. It achieved extra notoriety in 1945 when the owner’s “billy goat” was reported to have played a key role in the Cubs World Series loss to our very own Detroit Tigers. The BGT keeps fanning the flames of this and other memories without letting up.

It leverages its “15 MINUTES OF FAME”:  The famous Saturday Night Live skit with John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd aired 35 years ago. When you’re in the BGT, you’d think it was on TV last night.

It leverages CONTROVERSY:  The folks at BGT never used the phrase “no comment.” When tempers and insults escalated with millionaire Cubs owner Philip Wrigley back in the 1940s, the BGT never retreated. They embraced the media limelight. Still do.

It respects the MEDIA’S INFLUENCE:  It wasn’t so long ago, that it was on the pages of our traditional print newspapers were our spats between celebrities and politicians were won or lost. The BGT owners were super media “butt kissers” and reaped the rewards. Reporters, publicists, sports writers, columnists like the fabled Mike Royko, and beat cops were VIPs. Today, they also nurture good relationships with online restaurant reviewers and tour guides.

It has a uniquely MEMORABLE MASCOT: A real billy goat. Want to know why this works so well? Note the premise of Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow.”

You can’t beat its WELCOMING, POPULIST TAGLINE:  Butt In Anytime!

It stays true to its core SIGNATURE PRODUCT:  The “cheezborger.”

It has a solid “we’re this, not that” BRAND DEFINITION: “No fries, cheeps. No Pepsi, Coke.”  Even I couldn’t miss this benefit. This is definitely a “limited choice” establishment.

It still makes the connection to 21st CENTURY TRENDS:  With local micro-brew pubs growing in popularity, the BGT now offers its own “home-made” brew. (Apparently, they’re not willing to “limit” the choices for what’s on tap…)

And last, its STORIES IMPROVE WITH AGE:  The more you dig, you more you marvel at the Billy Goat Tavern. It got its start with a bounced check. It refused to serve Republicans at the 1944 GOP Convention in Chicago – and then Republicans showed up in droves as customers.

It’s “strange, but true” stories like these that propel the Billy Goat Tavern’s legacy even today.


I can’t tell you how wonderful I felt by the time Cindy and I finished our lunch.

My mind was racing with marketing insights and my confidence was back.

I knew I could be “encouraging” again.

“Isn’t it great that we could leave our cares behind and just enjoy the day together in Chicago?” Cindy asked while we were boarding the evening train home.

“It sure is!” I replied. “I can hardly wait to get home and write my next Encourager!”


I found out that this wasn’t the best answer to give prior to a long train ride home.

Tom Page, SCN

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