The latest campaigns from Carl's Jr. and Hardee's -- in response to McDonald's July introduction of its Angus Third Pounder burger -- seem to have gotten the chains' value message across to consumers, based on BrandIndex scores between Sept. 11 and 16. But the impact may now be wearing off.
The McDonald's premium Angus burger directly competes with Carl's Six Dollar Burger and Hardee's Thickburger, which both use Angus burgers and sell for $3.99.
In response, the chains' parent -- CKE Restaurants -- last month launched the Big Carl, a competitor to the Big Mac that is billed as having more meat and cheese and being priced at $2.49 or less, versus the Mac's average price of $3. In addition, on Sept. 14, Hardee's officially launched the Big Hardee, another head-on competitor to the Big Mac. This one is priced at $2.29 and also boasts more meat (three beef patties versus Mac's two patties, three buns).
Both launches are being supported by commercials on both chains' Facebook pages and on YouTube, featuring comedian J.B. Smoove. The videos, described by CKE as "inspirational rants" against "the oppression of over-priced, under-whelming products," make direct comparisons between Big Macs and CKE's new competing burgers.
In addition, both chains are now airing TV ads featuring CKE CEO Andrew F. Puzder that directly compare the Angus Third Pounder against the Six Dollar Burger and Thickburger, called the "Nothing" campaign.
BrandIndex, which gathers consumer opinions across seven brand-health indicators on a daily basis from 5,000 U.S. adults, shows the key "value" perception scores for Hardee's and Carl's taking noticeable upturns in recent days. Between Sept. 11 and Sept. 16, Carl's rose from 4.6 to 9.4, and Hardee's went from 8.8 to 9.4. The chains' quality and "buzz" scores also rose during the period.
McDonald's value score, meanwhile, declined from 25.1% to 10.9% during the same period, and its quality score declined from 3.6 to 0.3 -- although its satisfaction and "willingness to recommend" scores remained stable during the period.
Furthermore, as of Sept. 17, the value score for Carl's was back at 4.6, and Hardee's' was down to 7.4.
What's one to make of all this? The simultaneous rise in value scores for Carl's and Hardee's and the dip in value score for McDonald's do seem to indicate an impact from the Carl's/Hardee's campaigns, at least initially, says BrandIndex SVP and global managing director Ted Marzilli.
However, overall, the positive impact for Carl's/Hardee's was more significant than the negative impact on McDonald's, Marzilli adds. And judging from those latest scores, possibly also short-lived.