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And now, KFC is bringing back the Colonel again, again.

Will KFC’s ideal customer feel like this ad respects their intelligence?

Well, if their ideal customer is post-post-post-ironic and a fan of SNL, for sure.

Okay, Darrell Hammond. Let’s give this Colonel impression a try.

I guess we’ll wait and see if the rest of America thinks this is funny/cool/respectful of their intelligence. There are still people who think the Burger King king was a great idea.

Prediction: I suspect this will be short-lived but, among a small group of fans with a refined sense of irony and appreciation of professional comedic skill and direction, reasonably well-liked. Maybe that small group is an influential group.

Let’s see where they take this re-resurrected Colonel.

(Do you think it sounds like he’s edging into Will Ferrell’s George W.?)

Introducing A Buzzword: “Evident Consumer Respect” (ECR) and its powerful business effects.

Over the next few days, I am going to “explore” an idea that I’ve been almost-enunciating for years.

Evident Consumer Respect (ECR)

I just made that up. But it’s time to focus on it.

Since I’m “exploring” it, my initial description here is going to be inadequate—but I believe that restaurants (and all companies, really) either succeed, fail, or never-quite-succeed-or-fail-but-instead-putter-along-indefinitely, based on one concept: whether their ideal customer feels their respect.

It might be a product. It might be the communications about that product. It might be how you do business, or how you source your food. It might be the way operations executes at 100% at all times. You could assign scores based on the Evident Consumer Respect, I think.

But, well, I don’t know the scoring system yet, or even if there should be one. I do know brands like Shake Shack and Taco Bell, Chic-fil-A and Chipotle would score high. I don’t know where KFC or McDonald’s would score.

Because, see, you can produce something as brilliant as this trayliner for German KFCs, brought to my attention today, which you can use to hook up to your smartphone and type. Amazing:

What kind of company would provide a technologically advance trayliner that lets you type on your mobile device while you eat? A company that respects you. Right?

That piece shows tremendous respect. I would give it a high ECR rating (like I say, I haven’t worked the rating system out yet). But how long before KFC broadcasts an ad that essentially insults their customers’ intelligence? The ECR rating plummets.

Similarly, I learned of this idea of McDonald’s to do a different commercial every day for a month, starring a sitcom actor. It’s an interesting idea.

But once again, I feel McDonald’s is very focused on their own agenda and not providing much acknowledgement that their absent Millennials (who are currently apparently not loving it) want to engage with a person, not a paid personality. I suspect this ad feels to its intended audience like Mickey D’s is still a big, old-fashioned company with a lot of money to spend on marketing. At that point, the ERC depends entirely on this kid Max’s innate charm. Maybe he’ll pull it off for thirty one days.

Anyway, stay tuned while I work this idea out. I’m open to advice and comment if you have thoughts about it. Evident Consumer Respect. ECR. It’s what makes brands beloved, and successful.

Navigating Nostalgia: How Not To Resurrect Your Past, Part 2

Hamburglar Tweet by Tasha

Okay, I’ve had time to think about it and I realize I did not provide much of a “How To” in the previous post. So here. This is what I mean.

How Not To Resurrect Your Past

1. Assume that just because something existed at sometime in the past, that people are nostalgic for it and it’s “beloved.”

Nobody really misses the Hamburglar. If they miss anyone, I bet it’s Grimace. Hamburglar was just a one-joke character who existed to create mini-plots for Ronald to resolve.

2. Interpret any reference to a past children’s character as a cherished memory on the part of the speaker.

Yes, “robble robble” is fun to say but if a person ever did reference “robble robble” any time in the recent past, it’s because it was an ironic reference to how innocently, clumsily, earnestly dumb stuff used to be—a tacit declaration that a company couldn’t get by with something like that today without an Adventure Time/Animaniacs-like dose of skeptical narrative distance.

3. Tease the campaign so much that it’s bound to be somewhat disappointing when it plays out.

Arguments over whether the new Hamburglar is handsome or a cynical attempt to engage Millennials were at least publicity. But after awhile, the actual rollout is something of a let down and the whole thing blows over.

4. Base the humor on old ideas and self-referential self-reverence.

And by self-referential self-reverence I mean, pretending that we-the-audience finds all this Hamburglar backstory amusing, as if we’re getting dirt on somebody we’ve been curious about. If you accept (as in #1) that nobody is as interested in this as the company itself, then maybe the humor can find some kind of goofy traction—like the Jack in the Box campaign generally manages to do. And notice that the humor in the Jack-in-the-Box doesn’t rely on a big wink. I feel this Hamburglar campaign winking and winking at me.

Also, yes, that’s A TOTAL UNACKNOWLEDGED RIP-OFF of a certain brilliant Brad Bird Pixar movie.

5. Assume that because social media has been talking about it, that any publicity is good publicity.

While all this miniature fuss is happening, McDonald’s continues to struggle to figure out how to attract a new generation of kids who see the restaurant as unhealthy and uncool. This seems like sinking-ship-deckchair-arranging.

I don’t have the answers. It’s possible this Hamburglar promo will get so much attention people go buy burgers, which has to be good when the company is struggling. But I do know that this campaign feels desperate to be loved. Not sure that’s the brand essence McDonald’s really needs right now.

Navigating Nostalgia: How Not To Resurrect Your Past.

I want to be honest with you, Blog Reader. I started this post several times, and each time, I just sat staring at it, somewhat demoralized. Somewhat irritated. Totally unsure where to even start.

So let me start by saying that, in the book and in a Food & Drink column I reprinted on this blog, you’ll see I am a huge advocate of making kids feel welcome. I believe engaging kids and making great memories for them is a tremendous way to hook families now and increase repeat visits, while growing lifelong fans.

I applaud efforts to honor and entertain kids, and families (without chasing off those without kids).

You’ve heard by now, probably, that McDonald’s is bringing back The Hamburglar.

The Pre-Ironic World’s Hamburglar

Except they’re not.

The Post-Ironic World’s Hamburglar

They’ve developed a backstory and a sort of coy rollout on social media, including some shareable video content, and stoked an argument somehow of whether or not this guy is hunky or something or nothing or (sigh) this is where I get all tired and grumpy and start looking around my desk or the internet for a distraction because it just makes me so worn out.

Why is that?

It’s because it’s such an obvious marketing ploy. It’s so “figured out” that it’s completely false. It’s enervating. It’s sort of why James Spader’s artificially intelligent Avengers villain wants to kill mankind, why the machines started using us a batteries in a matrix.

It makes me respect Taco Bell all the more for leaving the “kid market.”

It reminds me of why Burger King turned their cherished, nostalgic “King Mask” into a freak show.

It makes me aware, in these final days of the Letterman show, that we are living in a post-post-ironic world—largely a creation of Letterman and his disregard for the falsely earnest celebrity talk-shows that came before him—so you can’t pretend the old Hamburglar is acceptable. It’s amazing these old McDonald’s ads were offered somewhat straightforwardly.

I will assert, without research, that probably some focus groups revealed that nobody has any real nostalgia for him, either. People think “robble robble” is ironically funny, I expect, and the general pun of his name is sort of tight-lippedly tolerated, and that’s about it. I bet.

Therefore, the Hamburglar could only exist as an ironic throwback.

So I get what they’re doing.

But this new attempt is so clumsily post-post-post-post-ironic, so calculated, such an advertising-meets-social-media self-aware stunt. It doesn’t grow out of any interesting observations about culture, it isn’t genuinely funny, it doesn’t have the delightfully horrifying undercurrents of the Chic-fil-A cows, who are advertising out of self-preservation, amusing and engaging us to save their own lives—a complex, morbid, interesting idea.

It’s just goofy.

Also it’s a distraction and a watering-down of brand focus, as McDonald’s needs to figure out how to talk to us, quick.

Do they think this is what the Millennials want?

Chipotle just won the GMO debate.

Chipotle announced today they’re removing all genetically modified organism (GMO) ingredients.

I don’t see any GMOs. Do you see any GMOs?

I don’t see any GMOs. Do you see any GMOs?

Wherever you personally stand on the issue, you have to admit that (a) this further strengthens the Chipotle brand; (b) is completely consistent with everything they appear to stand for; and (c) will make every single dang other restaurant in the world look like a follower when/if they remove GMOs from their food. They’ll be mentioned as “first” in every news story as one by one, eventually, other restaurants decide to do the same.

They win. They get all the social media/public relations/brand consistency points.

At the NRA Show last spring, I sat in on a session called “He Said/She Said,” a town-hall-style education session in which Nancy Kruse, trend expert and president of The Kruse Company, had a wide-ranging discussion with Bret Thorn, Senior Food Editor at Nation’s Restaurant News. Then I guest-blogged on the National Restaurant Association Brainfeed site about it. At one point, their discussion turned to GMOs, and Thorn irritably said, “The facts are immediately lost, as soon as the subject comes up.”

And that’s the trouble. It’s a very contentious topic, and everyone is operating off of different facts.

But in a sea of fast casual restaurants, many of which are already quickly described by the shorthand of  “the Chipotle of pizza” or “the Chipotle of Chinese,” this move further ratifies Chipotle’s domination and leadership—especially with those prized Millennials.

Chipotle knows who they are, and they know how to seem.

That alone differentiates them. From the book, “Chapter Three: Brand Promise:”

“Many major restaurants haven’t been able to tell people clearly who they really, truly are.

It’s the reason I can perform one of my favorite Marketing Party Tricks: I can mix up interior photos of Ruby Tuesday’s, TGI Friday’s, Applebee’s and O’Charley’s, and nobody (except maybe the guys who actually installed the brass handrails and beaded wainscoting) can accurately match the name to the frame.

TGI O’Ruble-B-Day’s marketing trouble is, they didn’t determine what they want to fight about (and win), or whom they might defeat in that fight. So they change their brand promise all the time, which is expensive.

And they say whatever pops into their head.

Their brand promise is so ineffable, so vague, they don’t even really have something to say.”