Monday, April 8, 2013

A-Z Challenge: H Is For Herb.

By: Wlliam G. Muir
I think it is safe to say that we all know who Waldo is. The bespectacled young man in the red and white striped sweater who is always hiding in crowded places; such as the mall or the state fair. Before Waldo there was Herb. What is that, you don't recall Herb? Well I am not surprised to hear that, I have to admit I vaguely remember Herb myself. Of course the whole Herb phenomenon was short lived.

Where's Herb was a promotion run by Burger King between the end of 1985 through early 1986. The Herb promo was meant to go up against McDonald's promotion of their McDLT (another promotion I vaguely remember) and Wendy's Where's The Beef commercials. (I am pretty sure we all remember the old lady who went around shouting out “Where's the beef.”


The gist of the promotion was that Herb was the only person in the United States that had never eaten
a burger from Burger King (reminds me of an episode of Spongebob Squarepants). So customers of Burger King could win themselves $5000 dollars if they spotted Herb during their visit to the restaurant. On top of that everybody that was in the restaurant at the time would be entered into a drawing for one millions dollars.

The promotion was a flop; the customers never really got behind it. The whole concept seems ridicule, why would a guy that had never eaten at a Burger King before be spotted at one. It would seem that he had a pretty good reason he had not set foot into a Burger in the 30 years it had been operating at the time. It just makes logical sense, and that is problem very few of these promotions are ever logically thought out.
 

I worker for McDonald's for around seven years. Most of that time in the mid90's; a golden peroid for restaurant promotion. While I was there we had several movie tie-ins a year, sold Beanie Babies, had major Happy Meal promos, Monolpoly, and we even sold movies and CDs come Christmas time. It seemed like every other month we had something we were either selling or giving away. And I can tell you there was a number of times we would be shaking our heads wondering what the people in cooperate were thinking.

I will give you an example, for the 101 Dalmatian (live action) sequel the Happy Meal toy was for
the movie. There were a 101 different puppy toys you could get. (In reality there was only about 20 or so unique designs, they just would change each design slightly, say like the color of the gift the puppies sitting on.) Somebody at cooperate got it in there heads that all the puppy toys would come in packages you couldn't see through. Making each one a surprise.

There was only one problem with this, our customers didn't come in only once a week to get a Happy Meal. No, they would come in multiple times during the week. It wasn't uncommon to see the same parents stopping in after school let out to get their kids a Happy Meal. So what does this mean? It meant that we had people constantly coming back in wanting a different toy because they already had the one we gave them.

Normally when this would occur we would take the toy back and exchange for a new one. But we couldn't do that with this promotion. For one thing the bags that the toys came in were not see through like they normally were. We had no clue what any of the toys were. Secondly for the customer to find out what the toy was they had to open the package, because the packaging was not see through. This meant that we could not exchange their toys because the packaging was opened. These two things made a lot, nearly all the customers angry.

This promotion had been so poorly thought out that the owners in the Southeastern Indiana market got together to hold a one night event for all the customers. Those that wanted to could come in and exchange their 101 Dalmatian Happy Meal toys with each other. They could also buy more of the unknown Happy Meal toys at this event so could exchange those as well. Not a bad way to earn a few more bucks.

There are those restaurant promotions we all look back fondly on such as the Where's the beef lady, the Noid, and the Taco Bell Chihuahua. These promotions catch our interest and go on for several years, with some of them even becoming mascots for the restaurants. How many failed promotions do we ever remember? Who remembers McDonald's and there attempt to be more grown up? Arch Deluxe anyone. Or their attempts to draw in the young hip crowd with the My McDonald's campaign. No these advertising abominations are thankfully short lived and never spoken of again.

That was until I did this blog post.

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