The Mysterious Allure of the Hot Mess Sandwich

Another new product name has cracked us up this week: The Hot Mess, brought to you by everybody’s favorite Halloweentown nightmare, Jack in the Box. If you are unfamiliar with the Mess, here’s all you need to know: Gooey jack cheese, onion rings, jalapenos, beef. Not necessarily in that order.

Okay, so it’s messy. But the name does far more than that, of course: Anyone under 40 will tell you that “hot mess” is what most of us call someone who’s coming apart at the seams. It is, in other words, a pretty negative connotation.

And that’s the point. The Hot Mess fits squarely into the canon of “rude” product copy, of a piece with The Stinking Rose restaurants, Coyote Ugly and this modern classic. It’s a challenge and it’s subversive, and that’s what makes it cool. That this particular sandwich also happens to be incredibly messy and almost certainly deadly only adds to the pleasing harmony.

This is high-flying brand work, and not the sort of name you’d want to propose at Starbucks or Bank of America. But someone, somewhere, broke through the traditional wall of corporate resistance to counterintuitive product branding over at Jack, and it’s working for them. We can say from experience: It ain’t easy convincing a big company to take a little chance.

In fact, it’s a hot mess.

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