We've all heard how you can't turn a sow's ear into a silk purse, but Arby's would have to do something close to really compete with fast-food rivals like McDonald's, Taco Bell and Subway. To help pull off this miracle, Arby's recently added new CMO Russ Klein (he jumped ship from Burger King in January) and just hired hot-hot Boulder firm Crispin Porter + Bogusky to turn its "Good Mood Food" slogan from catchy alliteration to reality.
Because right now it seems like people are in the mood to eat somewhere, anywhere else. To give Crispin Porter + Bogusky a head start, we're offering, free of charge, our top five things Arby's should do to improve its image. Horsey sauce packets not included.
5. Get rid of that dumbass cowboy hat logo.
Brand recognition be damned -- the dead-last thing customers are thinking about when they pull into a drive-thru at Arby's is a cowboy. After all, the various meats used in the signature sandwiches are far from right off the hoof -- and there are no beans, biscuits, chow wagons or cooks named "Cookie" at any Arby's store. Besides, that particular hat style went out when Hoss Cartwright rode into the sunset...long before country-Western enjoyed another popularity hiccup with Urban Cowboy. So it's time for a new logo.
4. Make less-stupid commercials.
Sure, other fast-food places have acted seriously idiotic as they attempted to grab the television audience, but since they are making money right now and Arby's isn't, Arby's should pay more attention to the deets. The last Arby's ad I recall seeing was an annoying white guy with a Napoleon Bonaparte hairstyle and a faux Western shirt outside of an Arby's gassing on about Angus beef like it was something new and exciting. The commercial made me want to get a pair of scissors and give the guy a haircut -- not go out and grab a sandwich.
3. Ditch Pepsi and bring back Coke. Arby's had Coke products up until 2006, at which time the company switched over to Pepsi. This may seem like an unimportant detail, but some consumers will ignore chains that don't have the sodas they want. PepsiCo probably made Arby's a great offer, but Coca-Cola tastes better, sells better and the company has a firm grasp on the kind of successful, emotive-based marketing -- who doesn't like fuzzy-wuzzly polar bears? -- that Arby's can only dream of emulating. If Arby's can't find a marketing niche that effectively pimps its bags of sub-par roast beef melts, then the next logical thing is to rip off Coke's, since no Coca-Cola executives are eating cat food under bridges.
2. Team up with another concept that will make Arby's more appealing.
It's fairly common these days to see dual -- but same company-owned- -- chains cozied up in the same spaces, giving customers more menu options with more convenience. So Arby's should cough up the clams to buy into a concept that's better than its own -- almost any other fast-food chain falls into this this category, but Pinkberry would do particularly well -- and use that customer base as a draw. Like a tick siphoning the blood from a dog, this potential parasitic relationship would give Arby's at least two things it's never had: fantastic fro-gurt, and a reason for people to eat there.
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SHOW ME HOW
1. Make food that people want to eat for a change.
Overhauling Arby's entire menu probably isn't in its marketing/PR contract, but CP+B should intervene on the dining public's behalf for the same reason that people should call the cops when they see someone beating up a toddler -- because somebody needs to do it. Warmed-over deli meat sandwiches globbed with lukewarm nacho cheese sauce, au jus that looks like water-sopped brown gravy mix, a Jamocha shake that tastes like a gas station frappuchino and compost-quality salads -- the menu at Arby's doesn't need a facelift so much as a can of petrol and a match. Arby's image needs work, but its image-makers also need something they can work with.