Carl’s JR & Using Sex To Market Fast Food

Can sex sell a sandwich? Well, might as well ask if a clown or a cow can sell a sandwich, because, it’s not the vehicle that matters but who you are trying to impress with it. Over the years, McDonald’s has been both praised and lampooned for using its friendly clown mascot as a way to bring the kids into the Golden Arches. A few years back, Wendy’s caught some heat for trading in one redhead spokesperson for another. But it’s been Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. taking the heat for its, um, “sizzling” commercials.

Never ones to shy away from the silly or the sexy, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has put out some memorably titillating commercials in recent years. But the most recent one really has the marketing world abuzz – and more than a few media sources as well.

The ad is, by any definition, over the top. It’s big, boisterous and almost cartoonish in its testosterone excess…which is exactly what the brand is attempting. Consider: swimsuit supermodel Samantha Hoops lounging in a hot tub that doubles as the bed of a monster truck with Old Glory waving and fireworks blasting across the sky. And, by the way, she’s also eating a massive burger.

How massive? It’s more than 1,000 calories of, “everything you can get at a barbecue all on one bun” according to company spokesmen. What exactly is on this burger? Everything you expect from a massive Hardee’s sandwich, along with a hot dog and potato chips because, well, “hey, bro, watch this!”

According to CKE Restaurants CEO Andy Puzder, you have to “know who you are, and you have to have a focus…and we do. We are after young, hungry guys and people who aspire to be youthful.”

Guess what, Puzder just gave you some of the best possible PR wisdom you can ever receive totally for free. Knowing your target demo and knowing what motivates them to buy is an unbeatable one-two marketing punch. Possess just one of these bits of information and you won’t get very far. Nail them both and expect PR success … and, often, a few critics, most of whom probably aren’t interested in your product anyway.