Tuesday, January 19

Tossing Salads: Carl's Jr.

"We're just trying to bring all those people into the fold and allow them to have one-on-one time with Kim." — Brad Rosenberg.

That was how Rosenberg, manager for digital strategy and marketing at Carl's Jr., explained the continuing evolution of Kim Kardashian, a socialite best known for her E! reality show Keeping Up with the Kardashians, as an online spokesperson for its Facebook page.

Except, this time around, Carl's Jr. wasn't looking for 1.9 million YouTube views. It was looking for sales. Customers could only ask questions during the live Facebook "event" with an access code if they purchased a Carl's Jr. salad.

Carl's Jr. says that the premiere event drew 16,000 people who logged on with the code. However, Carl's Jr. also released the code on its Facebook page, allowing more people to ask questions, which precludes the idea that it sold 16,000 salads.

Interestingly enough, capturing some one-on-one time with Kardashian isn't impossible without a salad anyway. Part of her allure is her online presence. You can connect with her on Twitter or read her blog. In fact, most people know you might have better luck reaching her online when 16,000 people aren't vying for her attention over an online lunch date.

Can online personalities attract interest at online events?

It raises an interesting question for traditional agencies attempting to add online personalities into their marketing mix. It makes sense that Kardashian fans would view a new Carl's Jr. commercial. It makes sense that they might like to meet her in person at a Carl's Jr. location. But is there any appeal in connecting with her online when people can already connect to her online?

Unless there is an additional exclusivity hook — such as vetting the "engagement bet" like she did on her blog — it's hard to fathom. In fact, it's more likely Carl's Jr. is introducing Kardashian to its 80,000 Facebook fans (733 of which confirmed their attendance to the first event).

The low response rate is coupled with only about 100 comments on the lunch date tab. Those comments are mixed. They range from Kardashian fans (I love your show) and Carl's Jr. fans (who is she?) to anti-sex comments (love the food, hate the sex ads) and uncensored vulgarity (you'll have to look some of those up yourself).

All in all, it doesn't seem to add up well. While Kardashian is apparently cool online, it doesn't make Carl's Jr. cool to host an event on a network where fans already have access. Much more valuable is simply owning some of her social media real estate, which Carl's Jr. already does.

Carl's Jr. will have to work harder than that to make up for entering social media relatively late in the game. It also seems less likely selling sex won't have as much power for the chain as it did in the mainstream media.

Why? Agencies used sex as a cheap and least creative way to cut through the interruption clutter via mainstream media. It tended to work for Carl's Jr. as part of its brand without ever being perverse (as Burger King comes across).

However, online is different. People tend to look for what they want. And most people don't look for sex when they want a salad or a salad when they want sex. That doesn't mean Kardashian is a bad pick for Carl's Jr. It only means they don't seem to have an agency that can make it really work for them. At least, not yet.


Rich on 1/19/10, 10:41 AM said...

Famous last words:

Carl's Jr. of Las Vegas respectfully disagrees with me based on 1,400 new followers. Hmmm...


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