Carls Jr brand

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

8 November 2018

Carls Jr brand only amuses itself

In the world of fast food, I’ve always been impressed with the Carls Jr brand (along with its East Coast counterpart, Hardees). It’s been a no apology, eat it like you mean it brand that differentiates itself from the rest of the herd.

A herd that’s mostly tepid. Have you seen the recent McDonalds commercial in which a customer dreams of sinking a halftime half-court shot? Only to realize he’s celebrating the great meal at Mickey Dees?

“No one, even those who place the Carls Jr brand in its considered set, will give a hoot. It’s too clever by half, means nothing and was done only to amuse those who made it.”

It’s ridiculous, although on brand. It is Lovin’ It. But I dunno what it does to increase preference.

But, even when we’ve conducted research for fast food chain brands, the Carls Jr brand always comes out near the top in terms of meaning.

However, its 2005 ad, featuring a scantily-clad Paris Hilton eating a burger while washing a Bentley, was a bridge too far. That approaches doesn’t age all that well in today’s #MeToo world either.

The Carls Jr brand campaign is too much inside baseball

So what’s the Carls Jr brand doing now? It’s mocking that Paris Hilton ad with a new spot featuring Instagram star Celeste Barber and others.

You might find this spot amusing. But it’s way too much inside baseball to have any kind of effect on consumers. Only those of us in marketing even remember that Paris Hilton ad from 13 years ago. Hell, that’s so long ago it was the year the first video was uploaded to YouTube.

Meaning, who cares that the Carls Jr brand is mocking itself? Isn’t that a waste of time and effort to attract customers? While its same-store sales are relatively strong, they are not as strong as Chick-fil-A, Whataburger or Zaxby’s (and others). Shouldn’t it be concentrating on what’s really important to target audiences?

Carls Jr brandSometimes, ad agencies fall in love with their own cleverness. No doubt Havis Chicago, Carls Jr’s new agency of record, thought it was soooo smart to be mocking work from another agency more than a decade ago.

Big effing deal. No one, even those who place the Carls Jr brand in its considered set, will give a hoot. It’s too clever by half, means nothing and was done only to amuse those who made it.

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