The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently accused the fast food chain Hardees (which is the sister chain of Carl’s Jr.) of “food porn”. According to the CSPI, the main offender at Hardees is their Monster Thickburger, which has two patties, three slices of cheese, and four strips of bacon, for a total of 1,200 calories and 34 grams (almost two days’ worth) of saturated fat. As you would expect, the burger is pretty good although it’s probably not the first recommendation of a cardiologist. (or maybe it should be to increase doctor’s visits)
I’m not a nutritionist. I’m a marketer. So even more fascinating to me than the nutritional impact of the burger is the advertising campaign for the burgers that also has a pornographic twist to it.
First some background. Hardees had lost its way. They had everything on the menu from fried chicken to roast beef. It was a lot of variety, but nothing stood out. About two years ago, apparently someone came in who knew what they were doing. They completely revamped the menu and made the promise they were going to only focus on great burgers and nothing else (a promise they’ve already broken, by the way).
This new Hardees was initially promoted with an ad campaign that had some very simple commercials that actually trashed the restaurant and said they were going to do better. Many of the spots criticized McDonalds and the other fast food chains as being for kids. The takeaway was that if you’re a cool guy that loves a great burger, Hardees is the place for you. The campaign is so effective that it’s affected McDonalds marketing. Have you see the new male-focused Quarter Pounder with Cheese campaign?
In the second phase of their campaign, Hardee’s has changed up their strategy a bit. With the target demo for the ads being 18-34 men, it’s understandable the technique that Hardees is now using to get these guys.
Sex. Good-old-fashioned-red-blooded-American sex appeal.
Typical spots now include an attractive young blonde riding a mechanical bull while eating a Thickburger (isn’t that the way everyone eats a burger?) Another spot has a young lady waiting patiently on her boyfriend who is working on his hot rod while eating a Thickburger (again, isn’t that the way everyone eats a burger?)
All of these spots have a sexual tinge for sure, but none could be called pornographic until now.
The latest effort from Hardees has three variations of the same ad. In one ad, a young blonde woman in high heels and a dress stuffs her fist in her mouth. In another, she is stuffing a box of straws in. The third ad has a male doing the same straw trick. The “purpose” of the ad is to show how you have to stretch your mouth to get it to wrap around one of Hardees’ huge burgers.
Pornographic? Try googling any combination of these words: fisting, blonde, mouth, or stuffing. Just see what comes back. Obviously, the male version of the ad is an attempt to head off any criticism of what Hardees is doing.
While slightly revolting, Hardees does deliver an excellent marketing lesson. In order to be seen and create buzz, you must be different. Not so different as to alienate yourself from the market, but just enough to stand out. It will be interesting to see where Hardees goes next with their “food porn” and if consumers will bite back.
What are you doing that’s different? Are you just part of the scenery? Contact Shotgun Concepts today to take your marketing to a more visible (but never pornographic) level.