The Ad that Became a Popular Catchphrase!

by buildingpharmabrands


One of the most popular catch phrases used to question the substance of an idea, event or product in North America, Where is the Beef?  has an unusual origin – the television commercials of a chain of hamburger restaurants trying to reposition its new brand against the mighty McDonalds and the Burger King – Wendy’s. The Phrase, Where’s the Beef, is their advertising slogan, one of the most enduring and among the top ten slogans of the twentieth century.

Wendy’s was a late entrant into the hamburger restaurant business. They entered the market in 1984, when it was dominated by McDonalds and Burger King. As a part of their repositioning strategy they came up with a brilliant theme. They came up with a question that undermined the competition in a dramatic manner. They asked an irascible and outrageous question: Where’s the Beef? The question is so powerful that it is just not about the beef content or the size of a beef patty between their competitors’ hamburger buns but has the potential to question the very substance of an idea, event, product and virtually anything and everything. It has not only improved the market share of Wendy’s but also became one of the most popular catchphrases.

Where is the Beef? slogan or question was first used in a television commercial aired on January 10, 1984. The original commercial featured three elderly women examining an unusually large hamburger buns topped with a minuscule hamburger patty. Two women poked at it, exchanging bemused comments: It’s certainly a big bun. It’s a very big bun. It’s a big fluffy bun. The third woman, who is our leading lady of the commercial, played by Clara Peller, an eighty-year old retired manicurist specially recruited for the commercial asks the famous question – Where’s the Beef?

Where’s the Beef? became such a powerful question that it entered even the election debates of the American presidential election primaries during the spring of 1984. When the Republican Senator Hart,using a phrase ‘new ideas’ moved his candidacy from dark horse to the lead over Senator Mondale, Mondale leaned forward and asked, “ When I hear your new ideas, I’m reminded of that ad – Where’s the Beef? Although, Hart subsequently showed reams of policy papers retorting – Here’s the beef, Mondale’s strategy succeeded in casting doubt on Hart’s new ideas and changing the debate to specific details, earning him the Democratic nomination. It’s a different story that Mondale lost the presidential election to Ronald Reagan.

Can you draw inspiration from this and think of creatively undermining your leading competitors and create a space for your brand by designing effective communication strategies?