- Carl's Jr. and Hardees, quick-service restaurant (QSR) brands owned by CKE Restaurant Holdings Inc., have been taking some pointed digs at their competition via an ongoing campaign launched in September, as reported by MediaPost Communications.
- The most recent spot in the effort references an unnamed competitor that uses a "taco randomizer" to turn the same four ingredients into different products, potentially poking fun at Taco Bell's ever-shifting menu items. Other ads have grilled rivals' offerings like dollar-menu bingo and "9.6 inches of sandwich," per MediaPost.
- The latest addition to the campaign, made with the help of creative AOR 72andSunny, also includes a social media element, with an #AskRandomizer hashtag where the brands answered a range of irreverent non-sequiturs from fans. Carl's Jr. and Hardees additionally deployed the stand-up comedian Kurt Braunohler for video shorts where he measures up their All Star Meals with offerings from "subway" — in this case, a New York City subway stop — and "BK," not Burger King but a BK Pilates studio.
Brands in the QSR category have seriously ramped up their competitive spirit in recent years, directly ribbing each other on social media and in their advertising as a way to appeal to the types of millennial eaters who are favoring healthier eating options more frequently. Carl's Jr. and Hardees joining in on the fun represents a sea change in their marketing strategies, which, until March of this year, were largely focused on hyper-sexualized TV spots that were frequently accused of sexism.
The latest campaign fits in with the approach taken by rivals like Wendy's and Burger King, where not-so-subtle skewering of the competition has earned positive reactions from followers who view the sparring as entertaining to watch. Carl's Jr. and Hardees are clearly trying to tap into those conversations online with the #AskRandomizer hashtag, which leverages the casual and conversational tone of social media channels for direct engagement. Using a bonafide stand-up like Braunohler rounds out the campaign's focus on quirky, clever humor.
Beyond helping Carl's Jr. and Hardees put their problematic past image behind them, the messaging pivot might also stem from internal financial struggles. In a series of tweets last month, Carl's Jr. directly begged the e-commerce giant Amazon to acquire it using the hashtag "#AmazonBuyUs."