Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where's The Beef?

I was born in 1980.  I remember lots of things from my childhood.  I remember GI Joe, the Transformers, Mask, the Challenger disaster, Christmas at my grandmother's, and a basic, loud phrase coming from an elderly woman on television: "Where's the beef?"

In 1984, a spot entitled "Fluffy Bun" appeared featuring actress Clara Peller, asking the question, "Where's the beef" upon receiving a massive hamburger bun containing a paltry piece of "beef."  Wendy's used this iconic phrase to poke fun and embarrass competitors such as McDonald's and Burger King, bringing to light the tiny, sliver patties being put into fast food burgers at the time.

Fast forward over twenty years.  The phrase has become part of our American culture, but the origins, and the meaning, have slowly faded away.  Over time, with Wendy's leading the charge, the major fast food restaurants have been offering more items with more natural ingredients.   Now they are upping the ante again, releasing a new line of value hamburgers that aims to one-up category leaders based on quantity and quality of the beef in the sandwich.  In order to do this, Wendy's resurrected "Where's the beef?"  It's a spot-on approach.

In order to bridge the gap between a generation of consumers from the 1980's and the 21st century, Wendy's used today's current retro fashion trends, placing "Modern Family" actor Reid Ewing in a 1980's styled "Where's the beef sandwich" walking down the sidewalks of urban settings.  Along the way, people familiar with "Where's the beef?" give him the proverbial "thumbs up".  The main character doesn't understand the recognition he receives, until he comes up to a sign at a local Wendy's.  Then it all makes sense.  Cut to juicy shot of large hamburger, product sold.

Frankly I think this is brilliant.  We could have seen Clara again.  We could have seen the big bun, small patty.  Instead, what we see is a brilliantly simple connection between two generations.  There's no hard sell, not silly gimmick, just a recognition of pop culture history, and a delicious looking hamburger.

The most powerful messages are sometimes the simplest ones.


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