Carl’s Jr./Hardee’s is known for their over-the-top sexy ads. From Paris Hilton sensually washing a Bentley while eating a burger, to two girls getting in a scuffle at the BBQ grill and seductively intertwining to eat the Memphis BBQ burger.
The question is… do these ads actually sell burgers?
Sure, we could ask all kinds of other questions too, like…
- Do these ads teach boys what women should look and act like?
- Do these ads set unrealistic standards for girls?
- Would Carl Karcher turn over in his grave if he saw these ads? (He was alive during the Paris Hilton ad.)
Andrew Puzder became CEO of Carl’s/Hardee’s in 2000, and he’ll be the first to tell you that he doesn’t care if his ads are offensive. Actually, if you’re not offended, he’ll wonder what’s wrong and he’ll attempt to make them even sexier. (Entrepeneur)
The chain has grown (which is why the CEO does it… bottom line), but the ads have also repelled literally a majority of the viewers. However, these offensive ads seem to do something else:
94% of people remember Carl’s Jr. as the burger place with the misogynistic ads. Or as the CEO would argue… “94% of people remember Carl’s Jr.”
Is that good?
Many remember a similar tactic from GoDaddy years ago during the Super Bowl. GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons reasoned:
“…most of the viewers were males… we’d have a very well endowed female. We’d certainly have our name across her well-endowment. And our ad had to be polarizing, and it was. Our market share before that ad was 16%. The following week it was 25% worldwide. I would say it worked!”
Nielson decided to evaluate whether the sexy ads were the key to Carl’s success. They did a case study comparing the Carl’s Jr. ads using sexual imagery with those that didn’t. (Download study here– required free registration.)
The case study yielded three findings:
- Contrary to popular belief, the use of sex may not help your brand break through the clutter. In fact, the ads using sex appeal weren’t any more memorable than the ads without it.
- But in a category unaccustomed to sexual ads, the use of sex appeal can help distinguish your brand. More people remembered the sex “brand.”
- Polarizing ads are risky—turning off certain audiences can lead to overall brand equity damage. In other words—these ads ticked off a lot of women!
I’ve seen this first hand in my family. How? Being completely transparent… I love Carl’s Jr. burgers. As fast food burgers go, they are some of the best. They’re fresh, juicy and don’t skimp on the toppings.
But thanks to these ads, I can’t eat at Carl’s Jr. any more because for the last 5 years I’ve lived in a house with 3 women (my wife and two daughters), and they’ve all but boycotted the restaurant.
“I hate those ads!”
“Dad, don’t you dare stop there—that place is disgusting!”
So for my family, and many others… sex didn’t sell.
I wish I could say the same for the music charts.
IF YOU LIKED THIS ARTICLE, YOU’LL LOVE JONATHAN’S BOOK, MORE THAN JUST THE TALK: BECOMING YOUR KIDS’ GO-TO PERSON ABOUT SEX