Carl's Jr., a burger chain that is not exceptionally prudish when it comes to promoting its products with slinky celebrities, is launching a new campaign featuring scantily clad Kim Kardashian. The new campaign is for a line of new grilled chicken entrée salads.
The effort for the three new salads -- Cranberry, Apple, Walnut Grilled Chicken; Southwest Grilled Chicken; and Original Grilled Chicken -- follows Carls' Jr. campaigns using Paris Hilton, who soaped a car with her body to pitch the chain's Spicy BBQ burger, and author and TV host Padma Lakshmi, who pitches a Western Bacon burger in an ad that shows her licking as much as eating the burger. To promote its Teriyaki Six Dollar burger, Carl's Jr. had actress Audrina Partridge wearing a gold bikini.
In the newest TV spot, Kardashian is in bed with the salads. The effort, by L.A.-based Mendelsohn Zien, breaks next week on the chain's Facebook page, where Kardashian will also host a live event called "The Ultimate Salad Lunch Date" on Jan. 13. During the interactive webcast, Kim will chat via webcam with consumers while lunching on one of the salads.
Another element of the campaign has Kardashian appearing in 3D, inviting guests to join her for the lunch. Following the invitation, viewers can have the 3D image of Kim twirl, blow a kiss, and strike a pose and more. The digital elements of the promotion are being handled by 72andSunny, Carl's Jr.'s digital agency of record.
Carl's Jr., a unit of CKE Restaurants, Inc., whose roster of 3,147 franchised or company owned restaurants in 42 states and 14 countries includes Hardee's (1,221 are Carl's Jr. restaurants and 1,913 are Hardee's), has been using sex to sell both brands in recent years.
Chicago firm Mintel notes that the two chains did a "Hot Chicks Eating Burgers," contest asking for video submission of attractive women eating burgers.
A company spokesperson says Carl's Jr. targets "young, hungry guys, 18-34 years old. "Kim Kardashian appeals to both men and women. Her show ["Keeping Up with the Kardashians"] is a huge success, she has a large fan base, and she is very active online in social media."
The spokesperson said the concept for the TV spot came about during an introductory meeting with Kardashian. "This product is a perfect fit for Kim and her image as she's recently shifted her lifestyle to focus on fitness and health, though she doesn't want to sacrifice indulgence and taste in her diet."
Mintel says the approach makes sense, as men are not only more inclined to eat fast food than women, "they also do so with more frequency, making them an important consumer to the QSR market."
In its August market survey of the QSR business, the firm says lower-income households are the most frequent users of QSRs and "the group has a strong uptake in usage frequency as well -- positioning them as an essential demographic to consider in marketing and innovation."
The spokesperson says that as a regional brand with an ad budget that's much smaller than the other chains, "we try to make our ads iconic and memorable. If you are watching a Lakers game, you might see five ads for McDonald's but only one for Carl's Jr. so we want to make the most of that ad to ensure our young, hungry-guy target audience remembers it."
According to Mintel, Carl's Jr. has seen share flat at around 2.3% of the QSR markets in 2008, even though sales grew 6.9% between 2006 and 2008 to $1.37 billion last year. In terms of market share Carl's Jr. is ranked number eight after sibling Hardee's.
Carl's has highest concentration of restaurants in Southern California. The media buy, handled by Initiative Media, is heavy in sports programming.