Hardee’s: Sex and thickburgers

Hardee's commercialWhile watching TV a few weeks ago, my wife uttered this curious little statement from the other room: “That was by far the raciest thing I’ve ever seen on broadcast television.” What had she just watched? A commercial. A Hardee’s commercial. Yes…that Hardee’s commercial for the Texas BBQ Thickburger. I’ve caught snippets of it since then, and yeah…it leaves little to the imagination.

My wife isn’t a prude. But we are thoughtful about what we watch and the impact that it might make on us…and we’re even more aware of it now that we have kids. We aren’t letter writers, angry Facebook posters, or outraged picketers. So her next comment—“I don’t think we’re ever going to Hardee’s again”—really piqued my interest from a marketing standpoint.

Since then, a handful of my wife’s friends have mentioned the Hardee’s commercial in conversation and made similar remarks about avoiding the restaurant in the future. This is a fairly small sample size, but it got me thinking about how the “using sex to sell thickburgers” approach is doomed to fail (over the long term, anyway) for the restaurant chain.

Here’s why. Hardee’s is advertising something on TV that it can’t deliver in its stores.  And no, I’m not just talking about the Texas BBQ Thickburger (although I’m sure it looks MUCH different in person than it does on television). The commercial oozes lust and carnal gratification. But have you been inside a Hardee’s restaurant recently? Is there anything about the boring uniforms, the regular-looking employees, the slightly slippery floors, or the metal-and-plastic furniture that connotes lust and carnal gratification? Were beautiful, scantily-clad women clutching cheeseburgers and washing pickup trucks in the parking lot? There’s a huge disconnect between what’s being advertised and what’s being delivered. Over time, this creates dissatisfaction and disappointment for customers.

And who’s the target audience for this spot? Needless to say, I’m doubtful that it resonates with women. Middle-aged dads probably aren’t going to start taking their families to Hardee’s after seeing the commercial, especially when Mom has veto power. (Hot tip for dads: avoid saying something like, “I saw this great commercial for a new burger at Hardee’s…let’s go get a few!”). That leaves men ages 16-30ish, older men who eat wherever the heck they want, and middle-aged dads who are out with the guys. And let’s be honest: if these men are looking for lust and carnal gratification in their dining experience, many sports bars, “delightfully tacky yet unrefined” wing restaurants, and—ahem—”gentlemen’s clubs” (their description, not mine) will deliver it more effectively than Hardee’s.

What are your thoughts on the new Hardee’s commercial? Is it effective? Post your comments below (no log-in required!).  As always, give me a shout if you’re trying to formulate a marketing campaign that represents your brand well.

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