I just answered an email from a former writing intern here at the agency.
She’s back in school, and had written a friendly hello and mentioned that she had been assigned to choose a “repulsive” brand to try to breathe life back into. A Repulsive Brand.
She asked me if I could think of any.
So I just now shot back an off-the-cuff reply, brainstorming a little, partly to help her and partly because it’s sort of fun to answer the question, what brand do you find repulsive? She wasn’t asking specifically about restaurant brands, but that’s what came to my mind. Here’s what I wrote to her (copied and pasted here without edits, for whatever that’s worth).
Hope you’re well. Did you choose a repulsive brand? I think Papa John’s Pizza is the first to come to mind. God, I hate that smug mf-in’ rich asshole businessman who thinks I like him enough to affectionately call him ‘Papa.’ That brand repulses me. What else, hm. I am annoyed by a lot of restaurants, as long as we’re on the subject. I think Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. has decided who their target is and effectively hits it, but it’s such a debasing thing for our culture to have such an overtly misogynistic or at least neanderthalian POV on women airing regularly on our televisions. I think Olive Garden is insulting and cynical. I think KFC and Subway and DQ and Wendy’s and all those old classic chains have lost their way—KFC is currently randomly spoofing The Office again; it could be an ad for anything, really, and says nothing about the brand. Poor Subway can’t get beyond Jared and Five Dollar Footlongs—nothing else they’ve tried has stuck with anybody, and they’ve succeeded despite having a squishy non-brand. DQ has no idea why I like them, and Wendy’s pines for Dave Thomas so much they’ve induced Wendy herself to step in front of cameras and plead for us to remember when the brand was interesting. I don’t supposed I’m repulsed by that, but I do dislike watching them flail. Oh, wait, here’s that revulsed feeling, I’m feeling it again: I despise the current work for Burger King; it’s just so contemptuous of the viewer, thinking we’ll be suckered into loving them if they pay celebrities to embarrass themselves.