Fast food restaurant chains Carl’s Jr and Hardees, both owned by holding CKE Restaurants, is re-steering its marketing to focus on food — a u-turn from its memorably racy and sometimes offensive ads.
In a new ad (watch it in full below) the fictional Carl Hardee Sr. arrives in the headquarters of Carl’s Jr. to remove his son, responsible for the risque ads of the restaurant’s past, from the helm of the company.
In real life, it’s actually CKE Restaurant’s CEO Andrew Puzder who is retiring in April, after withdrawing his nomination in February 2017 from becoming labour secretary in US President Trump’s administration.
Carl’s Jr. made a name for itself with attention-grabbing marketing, including model Charlotte McKinney in a Super Bowl ad walking through a market in a bikini, Paris Hilton washing a car while eating a burger, and Emily Ratajkowski fighting with Sara Underwood over space on a barbecue.
An ad from 2012 featuring Emily Ratajkowski and Sara Underwood:
In a 2015 interview with Entrepreneur, Puzder explained his thinking behind the ads of old: “I like our ads. I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis. I think it’s very American,” he said. “I used to hear: ‘Brands take on the personality of the CEO’. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one [referring to the Super Bowl ad starring Charlotte McKinney], in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.”
In an interview with Fox Business earlier this month, Puzder explained the ads had “saved a lot of jobs” at the company because they gave the company attention and increased sales.
But as Carl Hardee Sr. says in the video, the company “got a little distracted.”
With the rebranding — which includes redesigned packaging, in-store menus, employee uniforms, a new logo, and a new slogan, “Pioneers of the Great American Burger” — Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s appear to be ushering in a new era.
Food innovation will be the new marketing focus, taking the company back to its roots.
“Pioneering a new way of food, daring food, cutting out corners food for you,” as Carl Hardee Sr. says in the ad.
At the end of the spot, Carl Hardee Sr. gets into an American classic car with his son. He then teases: “We have a great American thing we’re thinking up next. And that’s a promise”
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