Do you have an old ad that was wildly successful? Wish you could bring it back to life?  Read on:

This is a Wendy's commercial from Superbowl 2018:


By now, Superbowl was a few months ago.  How many people do you think remember this ad?  Considering the average cost for a 30-second commercial in Super Bowl LII was just over $5 million(1), that's alot of ad spend for not alot of emotional engagement.

Let's try again.  This is a Wendy's commercial from 1984. 


If you were born in the 60's, 70's, or 80's you may remember, "Where's the beef?"  The campaign was wildly successful, becoming a popular catchphrase that was repeated in television shows, films, magazines, and elsewhere.  "Where's the beef" had promotional items, bumper stickers, clothing and more.  Today, decades later, you could ask someone from that era if they recall the commercial and they'll likely say yes.  

What's the difference? 

  • "Where's the beef?" was simple, but entertaining. The Superbowl commercial is pretty simple, but arguably far from entertaining.

  • "Where's the beef?" has the element of surprise (the big bun opens to reveal a small patty). Superbowl commercial - no surprise.

  • "Where's the beef?" is funny: three little old ladies huddled together. Superbowl commercial...crickets.

  • "Where's the beef?" has what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the "stickiness factor," the specific content of a message that makes its impact memorable, in other words makes it stick(2). Comparing your burger to McDonald's, not so catchy.

So how could Wendy's have revived "Where's the beef?" and maintained the element of captivation? 

  • Picture this: same set up, same commercial. This time, its three little kids, dressed in the oversized old ladies' clothes, with child voices chanting, "Where's the beef?" Wendy's then shows a modern version of their burger, with the voiceover, "35 years later, our beef is still fresh, not frozen, and still fills the bun!" If we know that emotions drive action, and your brain works in associations, "Where's the beef (2.0)?" has already done its job. Even for those who don't remember the original commercial, the new version would still "stick."

  • Picture this: an alternative post, for those who keep up with hip hop news, would include Nikki Minaj and Cardi B, two artists currently “beefing” (or pick any other two artists currently at odds). Same set up as the old commercial, except this time its the two of them, standing at the table. One says, “where’s the beef?” and the other answers “naaaahhh, aint no beef here girl!” as she opens the bun showing a small patty, but also a play on words as they squash their personal “beef” and embrace.


ENGAGE:  Want to look at how to revamp an old campaign with an emotional story to connect with your audience?  Click here to contact me. 

GO FURTHER:  For data source, click here(1).  To read more about the "stickiness factor," click here to pick up Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point(2).