Whopper Virgins. Whopper Sacrifice. Subservient Chicken. Flame by BK. Made by You.
What do these scandalously intriguing names have in common? They are all social media campaigns launched in the past year by Burger King.
Since Burger King first opened its doors in 1954 in suburban Miami, the chain has grown to serve 11.4 million customers per day. But it didn’t withstand six decades using only one ad strategy. In fact, Burger King’s latest battle cry utilizes one of the most notable social media campaigns of the year.
Fast food restaurants like Burger King are notoriously famous for brand recognition. On a recent road trip, I surprised myself by spotting the golden arches of McDonalds, the purple outline of Taco Bell, and Cracker Barrel’s country brown logo miles away when their towering signs looked like tiny ants orbiting the horizon. These restaurants are American staples, littering highways and the outskirts of towns, bustling airports, and mall food courts. And their near-vintage jingles have become international Anthems: Hold the pickles hold the lettuce. Special orders don’t upset us…. For companies—and products—that have maintained a steady status since before I was born, their advertising is surprisingly relevant, continually evolving.
Take Burger King’s web presence on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.
The most recent campaign, designed by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, is a Facebook application called Whopper Sacrifice. The app rewards people with a coupon for a whopper, BK’s signature burger, if they cut cyber ties with 10 of their Facebook friends. “It’s asking the question of which love is bigger, your love for your friends or your love for the whopper,” said Jeff Benjamin, executive interactive creative director at Crispin. Benjamin, friend to 736 on Facebook, also boasts that the app helps with the popular too-many-friend scenario.
Although the app received plenty of attention and offered tens of thousands of whopper coupons, Facebook deemed mass-unfriending in opposition of their plans for the social media site. The 233,906 friends removed by 82,771 users in one week led Facebook to pull the plug on BK’s Whopper Sacrifice. “The friend removal is another kind of socializing,” Benjamin argued. “At first you think it’s antisocial, but it’s a social device. Now we finally have something to talk about.”
The short-lived app wasn’t a failure. BK proved their point: 82,771 Facebook users love whoppers more than their friends.
Although equally effective, this campaign isn’t quite as provocative as Burger King’s Whopper Virgin, a series of videos (on both the BK website and YouTube) that introduce fast food to people in remote locations, also known as whopper virgins. The concept came under fire from many critics, but BK was quick to point out that indigenous people who are unexposed to advertising can offer the purest, most unadulterated taste test: Whopper or Big Mac?
Made By You
Another way Burger King engages its customers socially is through the campaign, Made By You—essentially a call for customers to submit user-created content promoting BK. Among the videos is a battle between The King and Ronald McDonald and a carful of people wearing a King mask in a McDonalds drive through.
Subservient Chicken (found along with Made By You on the BK website) shows a video of a king-sized chicken and allows the user to type in a command for the chicken to do. The subservient chicken immediately caries out the task. This may seem like a mindless game, but it drives would be customers to their website, equalling more bang for their buck. Frankly, I’m surprised they’ve not turned it into an iPhone app.
Flame by BK
Ever had someone tell you that you smell like a particular food? Burger King thinks it’s not all that bad. That’s why they launched Flame by BK. “The Whopper sandwich is America’s favorite burger,” the ad reads. “Flame by BK captures the essence of that love and gives it to you. Behold the scent of seduction, with a hint of flame-broiled meat.” Already sold out, the scent goes for $3.99.
Using social media, Burger King plays up a comical edge to engage consumers. The very core of the message is empowerment and choice, therefore each media outlet empowers the customer or gives them a choice. Whopper Sacrifice gives the Facebook user a choice: What do you love more? Whopper or Friends? Whopper Virgin empowers indigenous people to settle America’s great debate: Whopper or Big Mac? Made By You empowers users to create their own content. Subservient Chicken lets viewers choose what action the chicken will perform. And Flame by BK…lets just call that empowering customers to smell like broiled beef.
Even if BK's under fire for disturbing indigenous folks by offering them a couple of free hamburgers, or taking heat from Facebook for encouraging users to not be so friendly, they are getting consumers to talk about their product. Talk quickly turns into cash when it involves food (or flame broiled perfume).
Burger King’s campaigns are effective because they engage the viewer, create interactivity, and have memorable content. But the biggest success comes from radiating a clear message from with in the company’s core, empower and choose—Have it your way.