Less About Sex, More About Burgers—Did Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s Get it Right?

Posted on by Patty Odell

Maybe a few more females will return to Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s now that the brand has decided to drop its sophomoric marketing for something a bit more grown up.

Those so-called “sexy” ads showed a scantily clothed Paris Hilton and Kate Upton eating burgers as if they were rolling in the sack with their boyfriends. The ads upset more than a few women, who viewed them not as sexy, but as sexist and demeaning, and completely unrelated to enjoying a meal at one of the company’s restaurants.

The new ads mock the “sexy” ads, and debut as customers demand higher quality, a trend other QSRs face as well. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s plan is to improve its image—not its menu—but with that kind of change comes risk. Its typical “hungry young guy” customer obviously enjoyed the sex-fueled marketing because the campaign increased sales. Will the not-so-edgy campaign alienate the old guard, while bringing in new customers?

The new ads show a character named Carl Hardee Sr. who takes back his restaurants from his playboy son. He gives his son lessons on what makes the chain special—all natural beef, charbroiling and lots of bacon. The message to consumers like me? Quality is what counts when you’re looking for a quick meal.

The company is also updating the interiors of its restaurants and has updated its yellow star to look a bit more bold and adult-like. The happy face has been removed and the red and white lettering was changed to all black.

It’s about time for change at Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. All these changes may bode well for its female employees too. Sixty-six percent of females working at the restaurants reported dealing with unwanted sexual behavior while at work. Did the sexy ads fuel bad behavior by male customers? While that remains unclear, it does appear its time to run out for a Hardee’s burger!
Watch the new ad:

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