Tag Archives: Carl’s Jr.

Mainstreaming #Foodporn – – has it come to this?

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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.

Burger Girl

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.

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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.

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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.

Burger 1

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.

Burger 2

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?

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Why does my phone company want to be my girlfriend?

For that matter, why do an insurance company, car company, and fast feeder also want to be my girlfriend?  (and where were they when I was an undergrad?)

Well, actually, they want to be your girlfriend too.  And I’m talking about long-term girlfriend, not quick little fling girlfriend* (example of that below).

Why?  Quite simply, they want you to like them.  And likeability is very good for a brand.   All else being equal, people would rather do business with a company they like. 

If you’ll work with me on the analogy, these are companies in very competitive, undifferentiated, and more functional than fun businesses.  We’re talking AT&T, Progressive, Toyota and Wendy’s.  They know there are other comparable offerings out there, so they do not want to play hard to get.  They want to be the brand you’re comfortable with and want your parents to meet (if you’re a guy).  If you’re a woman, they’re someone who’d be fun to hang around with.

Here’s a directory of the most prominent of the current ‘girlfriend’ spokespersons.

Girlfriends

Why do these spokespersons work so well?  They’re funny, smart and pretty.  Not beautiful, pretty – – girl next door pretty.  There’s a difference.  Progressive’s Flo, of course, started this recent wave, but all have serious comedy/performing chops.  They are naturally funny, and they’re in on the joke.  All are dressed conservatively, as if to maximize appeal without overt sex appeal.

In short, you like them for all the right reasons.  And if the advertising is successful, some of this likeability/appeal rubs off on the brand and helps you like the company just a little bit more than the competition.

Here are sample clips from each of these spokespersons.  They would seem to appeal to all major genders equally.

Toyota’s Jan (her expression at around :15 is pure comedic genius):

Progressive’s Flo:

AT&T’s Lily Adams:

Wendy’s Red:

These are fun spots, they build the product into the story, they catch your attention, and refreshing the campaign minimizes wearout.  And — they respect the viewer – wow!

So what’s wrong with beautiful?  Well, none of these women is Gisele Bündchen.  (actually if you look closely, Gisele Bündchen isn’t even Gisele Bündchen.  But that’s another story).

The reason:  beautiful just wouldn’t work.  Like it or not, it seems that model-beautiful and funny are virtually never celebrated in the same person (quick – – name a supermodel who cracks you up).   Using someone known primarily for their looks would be distracting, confuse the messaging, and rather than be likable, would make the spokesperson seem unattainable for guys and threatening for women.

*For an example of the exact opposite of the ‘girlfriend’ approach, check out the most recent Carl’s Jr. ad.  Suffice it to say, if you want the Texas BBQ Thickburger, you want it once, so you can tell your friends you had it.  But you would probably not respect yourself in the morning (warning, barely safe for work):   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvKuhpZjA4M

The Carl’s Jr spot, like most of their work, has it all:  contrived, cynical, pandering, insulting, demeaning.

Likability is good.   I wish more brands tried it.