The other day, I was trying to paint that “just right” shade of nail polish on some plastic beads for trout fishing when sometime fishing guide J. Binkley Backwater called.
“That you?” he said.
“I hope so,” I said. “How are you, Bink?”
“Not so good,” he said. “I made up a mess of humpy eggs for bait last week, and that old witch who lives next door has been after me ever since.”
“I’m not surprised. The last time you cured bait, the EPA listed your place as a Superfund cleanup site.”
“This time, it weren’t just the stink or the pollution,” he said. “Her little mutt got loose and came over to my place. It ate about a pound of bait, then rolled around in the rest.”
“Good grief, Bink.”
“It gits worse,” he said. “The next thing I knew, my hound Letch was havin’ his way with the little yipper. That mean old woman throwed a bucket of cold water on the dogs, then she throwed one on me and knocked me down. There I was, layin’ on the ground, with her cussin’ and chewin’ on me for all she was worth, and I looked up and seen the dudes I was s’posed to take fishin’ that day, standin’ there, watchin’.”
“You didn’t make much of a first impression, huh?”
“They left without payin’, so I guess you’re right. And that’s why I called you. Stuff like this has been happenin’ way too often, and it’s costin’ me money. Got any idees how to fix it?”
This was tricky ground. Backwater is long on promises but not much else, an “all sizzle, no steak” kind of guy. He never takes any advice that involves doing work or spending money. Past suggestions, such as replacing his relic of a boat or cleaning up around his “lodge,” had been ignored. A new tack was called for.
“Do you know anything about branding?” I said.
“Yup. Last January, I accidentally backed into my woodstove.”
“No, I mean a collection of ideas and images that might increase your market share in the guided fishing industry. For example, you could come up with a logo and a slogan to use in your brochures, calling cards, Web site, and so forth.”
“Hmmm. That advertisin’ stuff costs money, but I like part of that idee. A slogan might help keep the dudes’ hopes low. That way, they don’t git excited when they don’t catch nothin’. How about this slogan: ‘We might git skunked, but we probably won’t git drowned or arrested.’”
“I was thinking of something more positive, but edgy, so as to reflect your, um, unique character and services, Bink. I’m thinking your logo could be an image of a king salmon with a grizzly in its jaws, over the slogan, ‘Far North, far out.’”
“Say, I sorta like that,” Backwater said. “And it don’t commit me to nothin’, neither.”
“Right. People seeing that logo and slogan would immediately recognize what you have to offer.”
“Long as they don’t expect too much, I don’t care what they want to believe,” Backwater said.
“A good theme song is another effective branding tool,” I said. “I suggest something upbeat with a good downbeat, such as ‘The Fisherman’s Prayer’ by Mr. Whitekeys and the Fabulous Spamtones.”
“That’s good, as long as it don’t cost me nothin’.”
“If you did a fishing report for a radio station, they might play your theme song and give you a plug for free.”
“I like that free part, but what would I report?”
“You’ll think of something,” I said.
“I s’pose you’re right. I could always tell them how to fix up a mess of humpy eggs for bait.”
Les Palmer is a writer who lives in Sterling, and who occasionally lets his imagination run wild.
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