Just before the end of 2020, Pew released an unsurprising survey that when it comes to everything from the economy to the coronavirus and the presidential election, the people of the United States more or less agree on… nothing. “Americans,” the report’s authors wrote, “have rarely been as polarized as they are today.”
Two weeks into the new year, however, it’s safe to say everyone can at least agree on one thing: 2020 was awful.
It’s why we saw 2020 dumpster fire T-shirts and why, just before Christmas, “2020 Sucked” ornaments appeared on trees. It’s also why the Checkers & Rally’s quick-service chain invested its resources in a video titled “We Crunched 2020.”
Ostensibly released to stoke interest in the restaurants’ Mother Cruncher chicken sandwich, the video functioned just as much as a release valve for the brand’s customers. It shows a monster truck rolling over (which is to say, crunching) a variety of objects representing a feature of 2020 life that most people detested: rolls of toilet paper (to signify the TP shortage), a large-screen TV (to depict video conferences) and a living room sofa (to represent in-home quarantining), among others.
CMO Dwayne Chambers explained that the double drive-thru chain already has a reputation for “being bold and upbeat and offbeat,” so when it was time to launch a sandwich with “crunch” in its name, discussions turned toward the idea of rolling over stuff and locating “somebody in the monster truck world to help us crunch things.”
That person turned out to be Michael Vaters, owner of Vaters Motorsports. A veteran of the monster truck circuit, Vaters got into the crushing scene in 1983 after police in his native Hagerstown, Maryland, kept busting him for driving jacked-up trucks on the street.
“[Vater’s] been in the monster truck business for 40 years and is in the Monster Truck Hall of Fame, even,” Chambers said. “And so he partnered with us, created the arena [for the stunt], the props, wrapped the monster truck, and the rest was history.”
Well, almost. To figure out what kinds of things to run over with the truck, the restaurant chain reached out to its loyal patrons via social media. “And they submitted hundreds, maybe thousands, of ideas,” Chambers said, adding that the bellowing announcer with the “monster truck-slam jam arena kind of voice” wasn’t hard to find. Plenty of actors apparently have that voice down.
Oddly enough, hiring a monster truck for a bit of marketing flash isn’t a new idea. The wine brand Babe did it in November.
At last count, the Checkers video had notched around 400,000 views and 2 million impressions, which isn’t bad for a spot that basically consists of a rented truck skidding around a farm in Maryland.
And that might just be the point. A high-concept, big-budget video probably wouldn’t have felt like a good fit for Checkers & Rally’s—where a hot dog will set you back $1.35—anyway.
“We’ve always been kind of an underdog in the industry. We only have 900 restaurants. And so the top-of-mind awareness for the brand has not been has not been high, historically,” Chambers said. “And so [this gives us] the ability to give ourselves a license to have some fun.”
And some play for that new chicken sandwich.