A story, perhaps apocryphal, describes the past-his-prime comedian who, when the laughs just aren’t coming, drops his pants, revealing brightly patterned boxer shorts. Unfailingly it gets a reaction. Problem solved.
There is an analog if you’re in the business of selling consumer products – – you need to have a compelling story to tell. Brands who don’t know why they’re better than the competition often resort to fail-safe attention-getting tactics – – puppies, babies, tear-jerker stories, corn syrup…
…and of course, sex.
Carl’s Jr./Hardees and GoDaddy.com are just two of the many who made sex their Unique Selling Proposition. You can check their commercials out on YouTube; I cannot safely post a link here.
Both appear to have moved on, ostensibly to broaden their audiences as they move out of copywriting adolescence. In the #MeToo era, many advertisers have thankfully become more sensitive in how they go to market.
But there is a convenient alternative: #FoodPorn. With a wink and a nod and a hashtag that telegraphs ‘we’re hip’, #FoodPorn is titillating with words otherwise not used in general conversation, but without the photos. The buzzword gives permission.
In the most recent Super Bowl, Kraft Heinz’s Devour frozen food brand actually advertised on a real porn site, Pornhub.com, blurring the line between metaphor and reality. The brand is positioned as ‘flavor first’, the very embodiment of FoodPorn, and thus this stunt was all a humorous, one-time attempt to make the point and get some attention. But based on their website, they’re sticking with the FoodPorn angle. Not sure what the results were, other than a ton of attention.
But do we want to go there? Despite the old adage, not all attention is good attention. Most brands would prefer to focus on the product and avoid the crass associations that undermine credibility and turn off potential customers. But not all.
At a favorite burger chain recently (not fast food – – burgers are $10-14), where it talked about ‘friends and family’, part of the menu was blacked out. Upon inspection, it revealed that the blacked out words completed the language: “Post that #BurgerPorn and tag us. We never get tired of seeing them sexy burger shots.”
Upon conversation with the waitress, this is a case of man bites dog. The headquarters marketing staff decided to send sexed up menus to all of their restaurants, and in at least this case, the local owner disagreed with their judgment and took a marker to it.
I’m guessing the owner knows his customers, sees a lot of moms and dads, and drew the connection that they might not be interested in explaining to the kids what that all means. (I had a similar experience explaining the Clinton impeachment hearings to single-digit aged kids).
The irony is that these guys have a great concept – outstanding quality, reasonably priced food in a very pleasant environment.
Why mess all that up and distract attention with references to #FoodPorn?