Carl’s Jr. and its CKE Restaurants sibling Hardee’s are laying claim to having the hottest burger in fast food. The Thickburger El Diablo has sliced jalapenos, crunchy Jalapeno Poppers, spicy habanero bacon sauce, and pepper-Jack cheese between its buns. It’s a spicy piece of junk-food art, and it was actually dreamed up by the fast-food company’s agency, 72andSunny.
While we’re more accustomed to seeing great content than food ideas from the agency, the shop has turned its talents to product development before, creating Nook Sleep Systems, an eco-friendly bedding alternative for infants back in 2010. 72andSunny group creative director Justin Hooper says that the agency regularly pitches a wide variety of ideas to CKE, and the company invited them to design a new product for its Southern California restaurants.
“We’ve established an open, collaborative relationship where CKE invites our input in solving business problems, including ideas that go beyond marketing,” says Hooper. “El Diablo was a natural extension of that partnership.”
It’s not the first time an ad agency has added an item to a fast-food menu–Crispin Porter+Bogusky famously invented Burger King’s Chicken Fries and Meat’normous breakfast sandwich.
The idea for the El Diablo came out of research that showed 56% of U.S. households have hot sauce in their fridge. Hooper says the creative approach to this idea had its similarities and differences with a traditional ad campaign. “Like every campaign we create for CKE, we start with the same question: What is our audience of young guys hungry for?” says Hooper. “In developing the idea for El Diablo, we also relied on food lovers and foodies inside 72andSunny to sound out the concept, which was a different approach than we normally take in brand work.”
Agency creative Gabo Curielcha, who previously worked as a chef for 11 years, presented the idea to CKE, and 72andSunny worked with CKE’s product-development team, fine tuning the taste profile and ingredients to make the heat level and flavor just right. Hooper says the process, from creative concept to CKE product development, was a collaboration. The burger was so successful in taste testing that, instead of just SoCal, it’s been released nationwide.
Based on the El Diablo’s success so far, the agency is working with CKE on creating more burgers, chicken sandwiches, and new menu items.