When the Krystal Company decided to launch a new ad campaign, the brand knew it wanted to do something fun and unconventional. What the team didn’t expect was a visit to the Jim Henson Creature Shop.
Created in the late ’70s, this visual effects company specializes in puppetry and animatronics—the results of which can be seen in everything from “The Muppets” and “Sesame Street” to Harry Potter and Batman Begins.
Krystal’s new partner agency, Bright RedTBWA first floated the idea of featuring the menu items as characters in a new “Shun the Ho-Hum” ad campaign. Both the brand and the agency knew that they were looking for something unique, but puppets certainly weren’t the first option to come to mind.
“When we knew we were going to go down this direction with Shun the Ho-Hum; we loved the idea of the focus being on the food. The puppets are a great way to do that, and it allows the food to be the hero from the beginning to the end,” says Angela Johnson, director of marketing communications for Krystal. “It was a learning process for us. … Obviously none of us had worked with puppets before.”
The first three Shun the Ho-Hum ads debuted in late March and spotlighted Krystal’s staple menu items like The Classic, Krystal Chik, and Fries. They also promoted a limited-time offer, the Country-Fried Krystal, who is new to town in the commercials.
Johnson says the personalities of the Krystal menu items are relatable, and so far, the feedback has been very positive. Within a crowded burger field, developing a distinctive voice is key, especially for smaller chains like Krystal whose store count (a little more than 350) and marketing budgets may pale in comparison to brands like McDonald’s and Wendy’s.
“We have the challenge with our brand that our share of voice is just not what the other big brands are and they have deeper pockets than we have. So we really need to think of an idea that’s going to help us break through the clutter,” Johnson says. “These characters are so personable and the creature shop, what they have done to create them—really what goes into it—is truly amazing. We’re able to turn these characters around very quickly.”
Made of foam, glue, and other basic materials, the Krystal cast seems refreshingly simple and nostalgic in the age of digital overload. Johnson says fans of the brand have already started picking favorite characters, with Fries being especially popular. Coincidentally, Krystal has also seen a spike in its fries—including its regular and loaded varieties.
Johnson says the series will expand throughout the year, allowing Krystal to highlight different menu items and promotions. Consumers can also expect to see two new characters, although Johnson cannot yet divulge what (or who) they might be.
“The great thing about it is it’s about our food and at the end of the day that is what’s unique about Krystal. It’s our food,” Johnson says.
By Nicole Duncan