Remember when conventional wisdom suggested that tough times require that we cut back on both training and advertising? Apparently, there’s been a change of heart and wisdom in this area brought about by increasingly unparalleled challenges.
While many have, indeed, reduced their training budgets, many others have actually increased training as they realize the true value of investing in their greatest assets in times of constant change and global competition. Several of our current clients have actually contracted year-long “boot camps” to insure that wise investment.
While that approach to training may seem radical to some, consider what’s happening on the advertising side of the business. Not only are many increasing their budgets but they’re also pushing the envelope as never before.
Consider the fast food industry … Carl’s Jr. for a start. This 68-year-old American fast-food restaurant chain is located mostly in the Western U.S. and West Coast regions. It’s owned by CKE Restaurants, which also owns and operates the Hardee’s, Green Burrito, and Red Burrito restaurant chains. I thought I had seen everything when Carl’s Jr. hired Paris Hilton to cover herself with soap suds and crawl all over a luxury car to increase your appetite for its Spicy BBQ Burger. While it didn’t sell many burgers, the commercial brought Carl’s Jr. a great deal of free publicly from all forms of the media trying to report the outrage of consumers from coast to coast.
Now, we witness Burger King hiring rapper and producer “Sir Mix-a-Lot” (Anthony Ray) to sing “I like square butts” to promote a BK burger deal and kids meal complete with SpongeBob toys. If you watch closely, you’ll see the dancers doing the “I like square butts” moves dressed like SpongeBob, complete with tube socks and square backsides in a parody of Ray’s 1992 Grammy Award-winning million seller.
I realize I’m a “Boomer,” but I struggle to see the wisdom here in promoting “big butts” from burgers in today’s health- and diet-conscious society. However, industry insiders are claiming the attention-getting commercial has less to do with burgers than it does with brand identification. Apparently, you have to increase your shock value today as the public is constantly being overwhelmed by reality shows dedicated to rehab, marrying perfect strangers, and plastic surgery. The media again contributes greatly by reporting on the national outrage with this inappropriate marketing to young SpongeBob fans.
Finally, enter KFC (formally Kentucky Fried Chicken) … a proud member of the growing YUM! family. This is the world’s largest restaurant company consisting of Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, Long John Silvers, A&W, Wing Street, and KFC—36,000 restaurants in more than 110 countries and territories and more than 1.4 million associates!
You might call this shovel-ready public relations. KFC recently spent $3,000 to finance the repair of 350 potholes in Louisville. Once filled, they sprayed each spot with the message: “Re-freshed by KFC.” The chalk ads will fade out in about a month. KFC is planning to continue this project in many other major southern cities. Will it increase traffic and sell more chicken? Who knows. It’s difficult for some to make the connect between pot holes and original recipe chicken. However, this campaign is generating a lot of free nationwide publicity in the hopes of once again building a brand. Time will tell. If it works well, keep an eye on the other family members as they may try something just as radical.
Note however, that leaders in every industry are making an effort to “think out of the box” (or bucket) more than ever before. It’s something to consider in this very competitive environment.