Does anyone even remember Rax at this point? They finally went out in 1992 but up until that point, they were a shifting mass of confusion when it came to what they were all about since they served enough different items that one might have believed that the restaurant was going through a serious identity crisis that didn’t appear to have an end in sight. Of course, that was before Mr. D. came along. A place that sells chicken-themed meals, pizza, burgers, roast beef, and anything and everything that they could think of is a very confusing place to be since even if it’s a little of everything it’s bound to take nearly thirty minutes or more to pick a meal and for those that take this long anyway that number is only bound to increase since if you can imagine someone sitting and actually reading a menu then you know very well that the time spent ordering is often longer than the time spent eating. But that wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been the only thing standing in the way of Rax’s continued success. The commercials weren’t all that great to be honest, but then a lot of commercials in the 80s were walking trainwrecks so it’s not hard to be a bit forgiving on that score. But Mr. D., huh boy, there’s a marketing campaign that didn’t just flop, it pushed Rax into an early grave without bothering to finish the hole first.
Mascots for fast food chains are usually bright, chipper, and in some cases scary enough to be seen as pyschopaths under the greasepaint or beyond the foam rubber suits. But Mr. D. almost looks like a grown up version of Matt Foley from Saturday Night Live. One might almost expect him to start talking about what it’s like to live in a van down by the river and how all of Rax’s cheese is government-provided and safe to eat. But that might have also been more entertaining than listening to Mr. D. drone on and on about his life and how much drama was involved and so on and so forth and…well, you get the point, and if you don’t I don’t feel like elaborating on the mundane and mind-numbing details any longer. This was enough to bury Rax though and it was definitely enough to make people wonder if those behind the marketing had finally lost what minds they had left after trying to keep up with all the insane demands that this fast food chain tried to work with. Sometimes it’s best to simply stick to what people like and risk being seen as ‘that place’ versus trying to please everyone and simply confusing them endlessly until they simply can’t summon up the energy to deal with the menu and the continually confusing marketing ploys any longer. This is the kind of franchise that would likely send a person to the loony bin after trying to figure out the logistics of it.
And yet somehow, for a long enough period, Rax’s was able to continue forward with its business plan and make it work in some regard. How this happened is hard to say, but how it finally came crashing down is pretty simple. The whole idea of not keeping a stationary business model is enough to sink just about anyone since a varied menu isn’t such a bad thing, but most fast food franchises tend to focus on one core idea before expanding their menu to accommodate other interests. Rax kind of just went for broke and tried to satisfy a bunch of different tastes all at once. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, but it definitely leave people a bit flustered trying to figure out what they want, and as a result it was bound to make people wonder just what Rax’s deal was with the insane selection. But by far, Mr. D. was so much worse since the things he was made to say, the anecdotes that he introduced into the ads, and pretty much just everything that made him who he was turned out be a special kind of awful that a lot of people might have joked with and stated wasn’t that bad. But looking at it from the current standpoint one can’t help but think that Rax was somehow trying to self-destruct.
Does anyone know how hard it is to really tank a fast food franchise? There are ways to do it that would be obvious and could cancel just about any business, but when it comes to marketing it takes a truly astounding amount of effort to really tank something in this manner. Mr. D. ended up being one of the worst marketing ideas for anything in the history of business, and it was the worst possible idea for Rax.