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Jack in the Box: Taking Risks and Thriving
By: Heather Ewert
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If you live anywhere on the West Coast, you are probably familiar with the fast food restaurant Jack in the Box. Although found in twenty-one states, Jack in the Box was founded in California, and today it remains a strong presence in terms of fast food chains. To give you a brief history, Jack in the Box has been providing fast food burgers, akin to competitors like McDonald's, since 1951, but rose in popularity during the 1980s. The company sought to distance themselves from the “children’s restaurant” image — like McDonald’s had — and chose to go after the young adult demographic instead. This proved to be the first of several successful marketing moves for the brand.
During their first, largely successful marketing campaign, the restaurant ran a series of ads that depicted the old, cartoony Jack in the Box logo being blown to bits; essentially the symbolic destruction of their former image. The company enjoyed rising success throughout the 1980s, which continued climbing even into the early 1990s. Then, after a terrible outbreak of E. coli caused by the distribution of their undercooked meat, the company was forced to rebrand itself so that it could emerge from the PR disaster intact. In a brilliant, brand-saving move, Jack in the Box released a commercial that centered on CEO ‘Jack’ coming back to seek reparations for his (apparent) destruction in the 1980s. Since then, CEO Jack has been making quirky business decisions and talking about his new menu items with viewers, playfully teasing the audience at times while appealing to appetites and young adult senses of humor.
With such a turbulent brand history, is it any wonder that the company seems to enjoy taking risks with their marketing strategies? Subjects that are traditionally taboo still find their way into the commercials: from ads poking fun at the symptoms of menopause, to commercials referencing the famous Viagra warnings, and of course, the famously funny spots appealing to one of the most unanimous Jack in the Box demographics: recreational drug users. The company still appeals to the young adult demographic today in a very apparent way. Casual language, low-brow humor, self-deprecation, and throwbacks to staple '90s film Austin Powers, for example, all combine to create enjoyable, funny, memorable, and most importantly, effective advertising for the Jack in the Box brand. Even the reimagining of the blocky, outdated logo has been well received. The font chosen for the word “Jack” conjures an image of CEO Jack’s smile within the curve of the letter K; a 3D box sits atop blocky text reading “in the box” that echoes the box’s own angles. The usage of lowercase letters also lends to the casual, youthful feel of the company’s image.
While some people have criticized Jack in the Box for deviating too far from its core brand identity, whether it’s because they feel the menu is too “scattered and unfocused” or because the commercials have become too “creepy” and therefore ineffective, Jack in the Box has historically enjoyed ups and downs, always to remain a steadfast brand in the fast food world. And certainly, taking risks with brand identity has played into the company’s continuing success. 


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About the Author
Heather Ewert is a content writer for an internet marketing company. She enjoys creative writing as well and blogs in her personal time at http://infernoofcool.wordpress.com/. She lives in sunny Southern California with her boyfriend, Snowshoe kitty, and her collection of Warcraft novels.
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