Speaking of “owning up to your mistakes”, there’s one company that’s done just that in terms of, for lack of a better phrase, “growing up a little.”
Anyone who has read anything about advertising or marketing has come across the adage, “Sex sells”.
While that’s true for some markets, is it good for every market? What about food?
Carl’s Jr. / Hardee’s once earned notoriety for their ads portraying women in bikinis or other revealing clothing eating their food. These ads featured celebrities who often appeared in sexual contexts, including Kim Kardashian, Emily Ratajkowski and Kate Upton. When the CEO remarked, “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” 2 you had a situation that, well, honestly, gave the impression that a fraternity was running the company.
Eventually, Carl’s Jr. decided to ditch the “sexy burger” ads and move toward a fast-food chain that focuses on, “pioneering great American food.”3
This was done through a few commercial ads and other internet videos where Carl Sr. takes back control of the company from his 20-something son, Carl Jr., who had supposedly let all of these weird marketing tactics shift the company from its foundation. All fictional, of course, but an effective and creative way to address a situation that was stewing in the back of a lot of Americans’ minds.
The same CEO that made the “bikini” comment even stated, “…We prevented it from collapsing,” referring to the company’s former messaging.
This is exactly what I want to address (and frequently preach) in terms of why I think this is considered a #PRWIN for Carl’s Jr. The CEO, regardless of what he personally might think, used market research to determine they needed to change fast – their demographic wasn’t looking for “sex in their food.”4 Not only was this a decision backed by hard analytics, but it was done in a preventative, proactive fashion before it became a “United Airlines-Level” disaster.
This is the type of move that can change companies and put them on the top of the industry. It’s disruptive and backed – not by opinion – by facts. Along with new branding, it’s very easy to see Carl’s Jr. seriously competing with McDonalds and Burger King, especially with little goodwill toward most fast food these days.
Does your PR need an adult in the room? Better strategize it out—and don’t let Carl Jr. take over.
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