I wanted to call my new business Blazing Dog but when I went to register the domain name it was already taken by a Brazilian death metal band. Seriously. You can’t make that stuff up. My Portuguese is a little rusty but it appears the band derived their moniker from a song of the same name which is track 10 on Metallic Beast, their debut album which sadly made very little impact on any chart, anywhere, ever.
The story of the Blazing Dog was told to me by my first boss, a wonderful ex-newspaper man called Archie Bayvel when I was a budding PR practitioner 20 odd years ago. Archie was a Scotsman who came to Australia via India in the 60’s only and found himself on the first editorial team at The Australian reporting to Rupert Murdoch directly. He started his own public relations firm, the 2nd oldest in the land, in the mid 70’s. Archie was energetic and creative and, best of all, a fantastic story teller.
One of his favourites was about a Russian circus family who travelled to America in late 50’s to introduce the locals to their unique format which was far more theatrical and flamboyant than the standard fare (or fair for that matter!). The entry into a totally foreign market was a risky and potentially costly exercise and it was also the height of the cold war when most Americans had an inherent fear of ‘ruskies’.
So when they received an invitation to appear on an evening variety program they didn’t hesitate. It was a high rating live TV show that would be broadcast into all the major cities they were set to visit. The family decided they must do something daring that would really make an impact. They started with a display of knife throwing that was almost beyond belief and followed it with an escape act to rival the great Houdini.
With the studio audience on the edge of their seats, they moved to the big finale … rather than jump their performing lion through a burning hoop which they considered passé and entirely unimaginative, they bought a dishevelled cross bred dog to the stage which had been fitted with a faux mane and a long thin tail. To the untrained eye it looked remarkably like a juvenile lion.
After much ceremony and numerous drum rolls the dog was doused in flammable liquid, set alight and thrown through an unlit hoop.*
Archie never said what happened to the dog, the performance schedule, the audience or anyone else involved in the story. It was a moot point. He simply let out a cheeky giggle and told me to go and find the Blazing Dog in the next media release I was writing, product launch I was coordinating or PR event I was planning.
I’ve re-told the blazing dog story so many times over the years and hope I’ve done the original justice. The underlying concept is what’s really important, especially in marketing and public relations … make sure you stand out from your competition.
At Marketing Sherpa, bland is banned.
*Just to be crystal clear, this story is entirely fictitious. No animal was ever set on fire or thrown. Which is not as much as I can say for the Chook Lotto incident but that’s a story for another day (shout out to Alexis Lindsay, Tim Powell and all my ex-colleagues at Cox Inall – now, speaking of business names, there’s an interesting one if you pronounce it phonetically …)