If you’re an off-brand, second-tier fast-food chain fading from relevance, you shouldn’t be able to adopt a flashy new marketing campaign. You shouldn’t be able to just pay someone to make absurdist commercials with your name arbitrarily involved. Since eating at your restaurant is now entirely based on pity (direction of pity may vary) and attention-seeking desperation, you should be forced to act like a charity.
No new ads—unless they feature a sturdy, kindly old man in a safari jacket standing in the dust-blown parking lot of your flagship location:
“This is Carl’s Jr., and for just 37 cents a day, you can make his dreams come true. Running water, meat without parasites, and cooking for you without really trying.”
“Meet Taco John. It would make Taco John’s eyes light up so just to receive a miniature Bible-stories book and a half-assed postcard from you, and the rewards of that quesadilla will stay with you for years to come.”
“Little Dairy Queen here has lost more friends to ethnic cleansing than you will ever have, but your sponsorship can give her the hope to keep making indigenous folk art out of soft-serve and Butterfinger bits.”
Oh, sure, “a dip cone and a Dale Earnhardt commemorative lamp” was a foolproof way to corner the market for a while, but it was cheap and bound to run out sometime. Run out, run you down, run them off. Look down the road at that Arby’s that still has the old-timey giant-hat sign: “ARBY’S ROAST BEEF SANDWICH… IS DELICIOUS.” You think the old-time Arby’s hat likes presiding over block letters advertising new items like the “Jamocha shake”? You think the man who built that sign isn’t spinning in his grave, declaiming, “that ain’t cowboy dinin’!”? That may be, and yet the old-time Arby’s hat still stands here and there, not quite caving to the abject whims of your tacky ass.
But you never had so much as a huge old-timey hat, so it’s time to grovel. Yes, appeal to the customer’s sense of power. The customer doesn’t want your flash and confidence and presumption and newfound tolerance for knock-off-performance-art gibberish. He wants the chance to nurse your brand along slowly like the orphaned little bird it is, or to murder it through neglect. The one whose wings are broken from crashing its business plan into too many off-ramps, merging its flight pattern with too many Stuckey’s franchises. So don’t show us the beaming newly re-financed you. Fuck off and line-up with all the other forgotten little riblets of the world. Tug at our cargo shorts and beg for change.