Bubble baths and Yuengling

Baths are great, aren’t they? They’ve got the cleanliness. The bubbles. The cowboy.

I can still remember the first time I saw the Yesterday’s cowboy. A wide-eyed high school junior, I had just finished touring the USC campus with my dad and was naively impressed with the whole atmosphere. There’s just something cool about a man who epitomizes his generation while soaking in a dirty bathtub, whether it’s The Dude or a duderancher.

Like a forgiving deity, the Yesterday’s cowboy then proceeded to watch over my college career. He provided a homing beacon during St. Patrick’s Day revelries and offered a bastion of comfort following a food poisoning incident (no fryer cleaner was involved). Even now, Yesterday’s is where we gather when old friends come into town to talk about English lit and the Drive By Truckers.

Looming large above the never-ending Five Points construction, the Yesterday’s cowboy calls to all of us, washing down the comforts of Yuengling, fried food and college camaraderie in one easily recognizable symbol. Here’s to you, you naked wrangler.

While the Yesterday’s cowboy belongs to all Columbians in Gamecock-inspired ubiquity, another bathtub icon is much more exclusive. It’s called the Red Tub. My theory is that it’s like that island in the Pirates of the Caribbean — you can’t find it unless you’ve been there before.

Nestled on the second floor of the State Street music scene, it blends indoor and outdoor space where students, hippies and the occasional middle schooler can mingle over spirits and cover songs. These people once had a Neil Young tribute night — I mean, you can’t get much more self-righteously uncool than that! And yet, when you go to the bathroom (ahem, the INSIDE bathroom) and check out their flaking red bathtub, you realize that this little indie joint is embracing the same marketing techniques as mainstream Yesterday’s. It’s about forging an icon and building a brand. And bathing, apparently.

So, whether you’re trying to become everyone’s favorite restaurant or recruit a highly specialized crowd of music-lovers, the marketing challenge is the same. You must create a memorable identity that connects with your customers on a symbolic level. And it helps if you happen to know that Columbians are a lather-lovin’ crowd. While I can’t speculate on the reasons behind this affinity for the bathtub, all I know is that whenever a Carolina Rebath commercial comes on the radio, I have an overwhelming urge to grab a Yuengling and sing “Southern Man.”

 

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