A few words on Chicken Scratch’s One-Off Dallas Outdoor Ad and “The Appetizing Test.”

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 9.55.44 AMI feel like I have to say a few words about this wonderful billboard in order to avoid the appearance of inconsistency or contradictory points of view.

Because yesterday I blogged about A&W’s clever use of beards to advertise its Polar Swirls.

And when doing so, I brought up the notion of “The Appetizing Test” my colleagues and I often employ when advertising food that’s meant to be eaten.

And I think, on balance, a person reading yesterday’s blog would say I came down against—or at least highly skeptical of—using beards to advertise frothy ice cream treats.

Then I wake up this morning and I love that billboard.

You can follow the link I provided in the first sentence if you want to know more, but basically, it’s a one-off billboard placement that the restaurant got from CBS in return for throwing a party—not a very strategic placement.

But how can you not want to go to Chicken Scratch after seeing this, if your brain age is less than 90 and you’re open to a little adventure?

Yet clearly, this billboard is not trying to be appetizing, and in the end, might be unappetizing (the cartoon food is iffy, and they bring up stuff that makes you say “ew” if you start thinking about eating there). If you apply “The Appetizing Test” I think you emerge skeptical at best.

But man, do these people know their brand.

Which is a fancy way of saying they know why people like them.

If people like them because they’re an adventure, or because a large number of human beings like to run counter to the mainstream, and that large number of humans tends to judge any experience by whether it feels “artificial” or “authentic,” then this billboard spectacularly presents adventurous, counter-culture-leaning humans with an authentic option.

I bet when people go (and I bet tons of Texans are planning a trip right now), they will emerge tweeting and blogging and Yelping and sharing the experience.

At least until they detect (if it exists) an “inauthentic” whiff of commercial manipulation. That’s the trouble with this strategy in the end—if you turn it into shtick, like Ed Debevic’s, you can still build a business. But you lose your cred.

So, if these guys have declared that corporations can behave like people, then by God, let’s remember to make our corporations appear to behave like they people.
So, if these guys have declared that corporations can behave like people, then by God, let’s remember to make our corporations appear to behave like they’re people.

Still, that’s a long way off. And in the meantime, here’s a great example of a brand that knows itself, and knows that it’s appealing to see a company or a person (the Supreme Court says they’re the same thing) who is self-deprecating, modestly self-aware, and true to itself.

Y’know, that’s the most important thing, in the end. Knowing why people like you.

If A&W’s Beardvertising works, it’s because it humanizes them, and starts to attract the adventurous, counter-cultural types. Is that right for A&W? Remains for A&W to see.

But it sure works for ol’ Chicken Scratch here.

  • mattbull

    Thanks for the articulate and kind words! And for the record, I was a huge advocate of this place before they hired me. Truly ridiculously amazing sandwiches. See here for evidence:


    • Charlie Hopper

      You’re completely welcome, Matt, of course (which I meant to say a few days ago and am just now circling back around to). And I just clicked on your image link; Lord Almighty those are some sloppy and wonderful looking sandwiches. I think I would call that “event food” because I think a person has turned lunch into sort of an event if they order something that they know in advance is going to come out looking like that. I want to try one even more now.