The Hot Dog Story

My first boss, Jack Loftin, used to tell a story as a way of keeping us salespeople motivated during the recession of the early 90’s. He called it “The Hot Dog Story” (see below). Although the story’s message is “just keep selling”, I think there’s also an angle here for marketing people who are constantly faced with the challenge of trying to convince management on making marketing investment. The message for them? “Invest wisely to make your business grow”.

If you’re a marketer who finds yourself in “justification” mode, perhaps this little tale will help.

The Hot Dog Story

Once there was a man who had a stand on one of the busy streets down town and he sold hot dogs. He sold good hot dogs and folks bought from him on a consistent basis. He put signs up advertising his hot dogs, he placed ads in the newspaper, and he told everyone in his community how good his hot dogs were. And he sold a lot of hot dogs!

So he increased his inventory. He bought more buns, more hot dogs, more wrappers, and more condiments. He built a new stand and made it larger, added signs advertising his good hot dogs, and he kept his sales area neat and clean. He made sure his hot dogs were always hot and that his customers always walked away with a smile. And his sales continued to increase!

He was so successful that he was able to send his son to Harvard University. After graduating with a Masters Degree in business, the son returned home to join his father in business. At the end of his first day on the job, the son said: “Dad, I know you’re not educated in Economics and you have not had the opportunity to read and study the latest journals on business and economic forecasts. But the overall economy is in terrible shape. The huge federal deficit, the trade deficit, oil prices, and the unemployment rates are undoubtedly going to plunge this nation into a horrible recession. I think you should consider these things for future planning.”

The man scratched his head and thought: “Well, my son has the finest university education from the most acclaimed business college in the country. He must know what he is talking about.”

So the man reduced his inventory by half. He stopped advertising in the newspapers and took down his signs to save money. He quit telling everyone in his community about how good his hot dogs were and he even went back to using the old cart from years ago. And his hot dog sales went down the tubes almost overnight!

“Son”, the man said to his Harvard-educated offspring, “You sure were right. Damndest recession I’ve ever seen.”