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Culver’s ad campaign lets food do the talking to help infuse marketplace with brand values

Perhaps as you stroll along the boulevard one fine sunny day this spring, a person unknown to you will approach and attempt to “Culverize” you.

Be not afraid. It’s only a guerrilla street team working for Culver’s ButterBurgers & Frozen Custard as part of a new integrated campaign, which also includes TV and radio spots, billboards and point-of-purchase materials.

The campaign, breaking this week, features a redesigned website for the chain at, so if you don’t live in a market with a Culver’s restaurant you can visit the site and undergo the process of Culverization online.

MARC USA created the campaign. Culver’s, based in Prairie du Sac, Wis., has more than 370 units, and when it opens two restaurants in Arizona this month it will have a presence in 17 states.

Culverization—as described by Culver’s and agency executives—means spreading warmth and goodness to every customer who walks in the door and making them feel better about themselves and the type of day they’re having.

If that means feeling like a pickle, then that’s OK.

One of the three TV spots in the campaign opens on a ButterBurger with a pickle on top of the bun.

“I am the pickle perched atop your toasted, buttered bun,” a voice-over says.

The camera cuts to a customer, who’s the source of the voice-over. He speaks as if delivering campaign oratory. We learn that the pickle is not just an ordinary pickle but “a garnish, a distinctive statement that says you are an honored guest and deserve to be treated richly.”

He ends with a flourish: “I am here to Culverize the world one juicy ButterBurger at a time!”

Another spot shows a female server holding a tray of Culver’s Concrete Mixer treat.

“I am frozen custard,” she says, and the family sitting at the table seems a bit uneasy with this revelation. There is but one purpose to bring frozen custard to their table, the server continues, and that is “to make you happy.”

“Some have called me ice cream,” she says. “That’s OK. Everyone makes mistakes. They just haven’t been Culverized—yet. Enjoy.”

The TV spots, billboards and other marketing material are designed to emphasize Culver’s commitment to customer satisfaction, and that comes through louder and clearer than in previous campaigns.

The redesigned website contains sayings called “Culverisms,” which are supposed to convey the chain’s philosophy. They also are found on bags, coffee sleeves and cups. The saying on take-out bags reads, “Think of this as a gift bag for your taste buds.” Coffee sleeves contain the saying, “Holding me is like a handshake with an old friend.”

This is not exactly edgy stuff, but a brand like Culver’s does not need to be edgy. It’s not targeting the young adult males who make up Burger King’s and Wendy’s core customer bases. Culver’s has more of a family-gathering image.

All this business about Culverisms and getting Culverized certainly gets the brand name before the public, but some consumers probably will think of “pulverize” when they see or hear Culverize. That’s not the best word association for a campaign. Hardly anyone wants to be pulverized when they go to a restaurant. That aside, the campaign has a nicely balanced focus on both customer service and food. It’s not unusual for one of those brand aspects to get pushed to the background in a campaign, even one specifically designed to emphasize both.

This is a far more ambitious campaign for Culver’s than any I’ve seen in the past. If it succeeds, Culverization of the world is only moments away.

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