Carl's Jr. and Hardee's aren't about to tamper with the "indulgent" experience that's made them the go-to QSRs for burger-loving "young, hungry guys." But thanks to working with Men's Health editors and Eat This Not That authors, who are normally more critical than supportive of their menus, the CKE Restaurants chains believe they've come up with turkey burgers that deliver indulgence with a significantly lower calorie payload.
Eat This co-author Matt Goulding worked with CKE to create the new Charbroiled Turkey Burgers. All five varieties clock in at under 500 calories, but feature quarter-pound patties and multiple toppings. The basic or Original Turkey Burger (available in both chains) features red onion, tomato, dill pickles, ketchup and mayo and has 480 calories (150 from fat), compared to 770 calories (430 from fat) in a Hardee's Original Thickburger. Hardee's is also offering mushroom/Swiss cheese and BBQ ranch versions, while Carl's is offering teriyaki and guacamole versions.
"Menu items from both Carl's Jr. and Hardee's have often landed on our 'worst foods' list because of their high calorie counts, so we were excited to work with them to develop this new line," said David Zinczenko, co-author of Eat This and editor in chief of Men's Health. Indeed, the Eat This restaurant rankings in the Men's Health's site currently grade Carl's Jr. D+ and Hardee's C- on the healthier choices scale.
The challenge, brand- and marketing-wise, is maintaining that "hungry guy" image while providing healthier choices desirable to this core customer base that may also attract customers who may have shied away from the chains based on that same indulgent menu perception.
"Our value proposition is that we're fast-food restaurants that deliver indulgent, sit-down restaurant-quality burgers and other food," Brad Haley, EVP, marketing for CKE Restaurants, tells Marketing Daily. "And I'm sure that some of our items will continue to be on the 'Not That' or even the worst lists of Eat This, Not That. "But working with them and Men's Health was a great match, because we're on board with their philosophy that people aren't going to lose weight and maintain healthy weights by trying to give up the foods they love," Haley continues. "Sustainable results come from making smarter choices as part of your lifestyle. People who love burgers aren't going to stop eating burgers, and guys aren't going to eat burgers that taste like diet items. These turkey burgers are so close to beef burgers that we think people are going to want to substitute them in all kinds of burger builds, which is an option we're making available."
The Men's Health connection also comes with a media partnership ready-made for targeting guys who are very likely to be interested in finding satisfying but healthier QSR restaurant fare. The two chains are running advertising and advertorials in Men's Health and banners on its site, and have rights to cite the magazine and the book in their advertising and promotions, reports Haley.
Carl's and Hardee's also aren't backing away from their well-established flair for grabbing guys' attention with TV spots that pair beautiful women with tempting burgers. The anchor for their campaign for the new turkey burgers is a spot -- the first from the chains' new agency, David & Goliath -- featuring Gizem Memic, the reigning Miss Turkey from the Miss Universe pageant.
Actually, hinting at the guys-and-beyond hoped-for appeal of the burgers, Miss Turkey is shown causing men, women and children alike at a resort pool to freeze and gawk as she strips out of her official robe to reveal her bikini-clad figure (all the while eating a turkey burger). The capper: the bikini's material (shown in close-up) sports numerous images of the charbroiled turkey burger.
The spot, in addition to noting the Men's Health/Eat This burger collaboration, also marks the debut of the chains' new tagline: "Just the way it is." "Younger guys are among the most jaded viewers of advertising out there, so we have to tell it like it is," notes Haley.
"Carl's Jr. and Hardee's are known for being refreshingly, almost brutally, honest and relevant, in a humorous way, and this new tagline conveys quality food served up with a no-BS attitude," adds David Angelo, chairman and chief creative officer of David & Goliath. "'That's just the way it is' is something the chains' customers likely say every day. When you say that, you're stating an irrefutable truth that doesn't allow for argument. It embraces the voice in all of us that's unafraid to be who we are and own it."
The Miss Turkey commercial, in addition to airing on national cable and in spot markets, is viewable on both chains' YouTube channels. The campaign also includes promotion through the chains' Facebook and Twitter presences.