Mad Men and Burgers

One of the fun things about the popular series Mad Men is that it often references real brands from the period being portrayed. In a recent episode, Peggy is assigned to lead the pitch for Burger Chef, a popular hamburger chain in the 60’s and 70’s with restaurants across the US. When I saw this, it really hit home and brought back some memories. My Dad worked on that brand for years.

Growing up in the 70’s, I remember driving with him to visit Burger Chef restaurants across the Northeast. His company produced point-of-sale, premiums and other collateral for the chain so he’d visit the stores to see that materials were merchandised correctly. At times we’d have so much Burger Chef stuff in the house that it felt like the “Burger Chef” and “Jeff” were members of the family.

After seeing the brand on Mad Men, I did some research. In the late 1970’s, the Burger Chef chain was owned by General Foods and had over 1,000 stores across the US, second only to McDonalds. However, in 1982 GF management decided to divest and sold the chain to the parent company of Hardees, which subsequently rebranded or closed stores. The last Burger Chef restaurant dropped the name in 1996.

While the history is interesting, what really struck me is the devotion to the restaurant that continues today. Google “Burger Chef” and you’ll find numerous tribute sites and social media pages dedicated to the brand. Many of these sites feature materials that my Dad’s firm produced back then. It takes dedicated fans to hold onto packaging, premiums, displays, etc for almost 40 years!

Indeed. It’s a good reminder that, in a digital world, there is still a place for traditional advertising and promotion. We are still physical beings who need to connect with the tangible items that surround us.

While digital ads disappear, printed advertising and promotions can stick around for a while. Sometimes for a very long while.

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