Established in 1941 and 1960, respectively and separately, Carl’s Jr. and Hardees are a fast-food restaurant chain serving burgers that came together as two nearly identical entities in 1997 when Carl’s Jr. acquired Hardees, with the former keeping its presence in the West and the latter in the East of the United States. Owned by CKE Restaurants, the two restaurants now have over 3,800 franchised or company-operated restaurants in 44 states and 41 foreign countries and U.S. territories. This year, the two have started a transition into a new global brand, advertising campaign, and identity created and designed by 72andSunny.
The previously retro-inspired logos [have been] replaced with a bold, yet streamlined, modern typeface that combines the classy, smooth look of the original script font with an elevated sensibility; a simple yellow star will remain a focus to honor CKE’s iconic “Happy Star” heritage.
If the old logos were introduced today they would get completely panned… with their too-cute-for-its-own-good star, heavy stroke, and antiquated script typography. But it’s the combination of all those elements that have made them so instantly recognizable and reminiscent of the soda fountain era. In terms of hip factor, though, they were heavily lacking and these new iterations squarely aim to remedy that.
The smiling face has been removed from the star, the stroke has been dropped, and there is not a sign of red anywhere. These stripped-down logos follow the trend of companies dropping their excess visual baggage and the result in this case, while disconcerting at first, yields a pair of logos that are more efficient, bolder, and despite the fact that it’s a star and a script typeface… more bad-ass. It also allows the logos to be more adaptable to their advertising, which I always thought there was an extreme disconnect between the family-friendly logos and their cleavage-powered TV ads that started back in 2005 with Paris Hilton, but more on that after.
CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc. (“CKE”), parent company of Carl’s Jr.® and Hardee’s® restaurant chains, today announced the official launch of its new advertising direction and brand ethos, beginning with declaring their rightful status as “Pioneers of the Great American Burger”; the title will also serve as the company’s new ad tagline.
As a first step in this new direction, CKE debuted their “Pioneer Anthem” commercial last week - It’s 30 seconds of tantalizing adrenaline that delivers the most in-your-face, deliciously pop culture-driven fast food history lesson of your life, all set to a beat-thumping electropop soundtrack that hits harder than a Jalapeño Popper®.
The new global brand campaign for Carl’s Jr. and Hardees revolves around being the pioneers of the great American burger, which is a fine rallying cry whether factually true or not. It does something other burger joints aren’t doing and it helps give them a strong, decisive, affirming tone of voice and visual language that’s based on endless combinations of Hoefler & Co.’s Knockout and a script font, all in yellow and white to match the new logos. As you’ll see int the spots below, it’s a consistent combination that leads to very convincing results. Like, I want a hamburger, right now.
This week, the company introduces its new silver-fox of a spokes-character and fictional founder, Carl Hardee Sr. (portrayed by actor, singer, comedian, Charles Esten), who epically personifies this new irreverent, quality- and pioneer-focused direction. In CKE’s newest commercial spot titled, “Carl Hardee Sr. Returns,” Carl Hardee Sr. is seen “taking back” the company from “son,” Carl Hardee Jr. (portrayed by the Upright Citizens Brigade’s Drew Tarver).
Ever since that 2005 Paris Hilton ad, the TV spots have been babe after babe eating hamburgers, culminating in a three-way-innuendo’d ad last year and Kate Upton having a jalapeño orgasm during the Super Bowl this year. The joke is up. Or, well, it was up years ago but Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s have finally dropped the strategy and are throwing Carl Jr., literally, under the bus. The new ad, or mini movie, shows Carl Sr. (played by Nashville’s Deacon) explaining why boobs were in but now they are out. Somewhere between KFC’s Colonel Sanders and Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man in the World, Carl Sr. has the potential to be a cool spokesperson for the brands and slowly help shed the gratuitous cleavage approach used for so many years that, granted, is probably part of what made them popular.
Characterized by a dark and bold richness, each menu item will see its inherent quality and dripping deliciousness put in the spotlight — literally. CKE’s menu offerings are taking center stage as the hero for this rebrand, and the company’s updated presentation style ensures nothing distracts viewers from the true star of the show: the food.
In terms of actual application of the identity, there is not much yet. The best example is the menu board, which looks really great and showcases the main identity elements — food photography against black, Knockout and script font, and yellow accents — in a striking way. The packaging renders look shy by comparison and are probably still work-in-progress but they need some extra oomph on the side to match the energy of the ads. Overall, this is a solid update for a pair of brands that had and outdated look and an offensive ad strategy but are now positioned to be about the food they serve and the equity of being in the business for more than 70 years.
Thanks to Jared Throne for the tip.