Burger King Case Study - 2202

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Burger King: Having it their Way for a Change So how do you get your name out when you’re the number two burger joint in the country? By the turn of the millennium, in the minds of many, Burger King had been relegated to sitting the bench in the fast food industry. And in a way, after having changed owners and being rebranded so many times, it might come as no surprise. Then in 2003 Burger King hired the advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which brought on some major brand changes for the fast food franchise. At the time, Burger King was viewed as a boring brand with very little personality and identity. Crispin Porter + Bogusky quickly took steps to give Burger King a new image, an image that would be fun and that people would want to be associated with. Over the last few years, Burger King’s new advertising campaigns have certainly caught people’s attention. Attention, however, is not necessarily a positive thing. The Crispin Porter + Bogusky agency has been known for edgy and controversial advertising and its work for Burger King has been no exception. It certainly gave Burger King a new face. Early promotions included Burger King’s “subservient chicken” Web site, where a man in a chicken suit sitting in front of a video camera would respond to commands put in by viewers. BK spun off the subservient chicken theme in 2005 with a faux metal band called Coq Roq to promote its new Chicken Fries. The campaign included commercials featuring the band—a group of six musicians wearing chicken masks—along with a Web site and music videos for four songs singing the praises of subservient chickens and Chicken Fries. If the name of the band itself did not set the tone (never mind the lead singer: Fowl Mouth), the Web site launched with a photo gallery containing pictures of young women with captions like “Groupies love the Coq.” The images set off a major controversy, with many viewers claiming the images were demeaning to women and inappropriate for children. The captions quickly came down. The company blamed the captions on malfunctions in Flash and XML programming. The innuendo of Coq Roq was not an anomaly in BK’s new advertising messages either; about the same time BK released a series of commercials featuring former Hootie and the Blowfish front-man Darius Rucker singing a rewritten version of the “Have it your way” theme song with suggestive lyrics while traveling through a fantasy land of food and provocatively dressed women. Though controversial, Crispin Porter + Bogusky was setting Burger King apart, and sales began to improve. BK’s advertising, however, has not just relied on sex to sell its products. While it has established the 18- to 34-year-old male as a major target demographic, many of BK’s latest advertising campaigns have been simply designed to surprise consumers and shake things up. One of Crispin’s early moves was a resurrection of Burger King’s stale old mascot: the King. But rather than give him a hip contemporary makeover, they kept the crown, red beard, and kingly apparel topped with a creepy smiling immobile mask. The King has since been featured in many of Burger King’s recent campaigns, such as their “Waking up with the King” feature in which a confused young man wakes up to find the King in bed right next to him. The King then gives him a breakfast sandwich. In 2007, Burger King launched its “Whopper Freakout” hoax campaign, where they pulled the Whopper off the menu at a couple of select Burger King locations and filmed customers’ reactions on hidden cameras. In late 2008, Burger King advertisers stoked further controversy with their “Whopper Virgins” commercials. The campaign focused around taste tests between the Whopper and McDonald’s Big Mac similar to Pepsi-Cola’s “Pepsi Challenge” against Coca-Cola, but as ever, Burger King added a twist. Their ad firm hired an independent research team to perform the tests among three separate people groups (the Inuit tribes of Iceland, the Hmong on Thailand, and a group of rural farmers in Transylvania) who they identified as having no exposure to either the McDonald’s or Burger King brands or marketing (or fast food at all). The taste testers appeared in their traditional garb, and according to the filming by the research team, the majority choose the Whopper. And while the research team and the advertisers at Crispin claimed that the project was undertaken with the utmost care and respect for the people and their cultures, the ads (again) set off a flurry of controversy with accusations that Burger King’s campaign was exploitative and culturally degrading. Whether their advertising crosses the line or not, BK’s promotions have certainly been successful. The subservient chicken Web site drew 439 million visitors, the Coq Roq Web site drew substantial traffic as well, and the Chicken Fries proved a success on the BK menu. When Burger King released an Xbox videogame featuring the King, the game sold several million copies. Burger King caught significant attention as well with its latest stunt, titled “Whopper Sacrifice.” The campaign, featuring the tagline “Friendship is strong, but the Whopper is stronger” was run on Facebook, where the company created an application that would send out a message every time the user defriended someone. For every ten people users defriended, BK offered them a coupon for a free Whopper. Shortly after the launch, Facebook banned the application. BK responded by posting the following message on the campaign’s Web site: “Facebook has disabled Whopper Sacrifice after your love for the Whopper proved to be stronger than 233,906 friendships.”

1. What do you think of Burger King’s advertising tactics? Is it OK to attract new customers while alienating others? Is Burger King’s advertising ethical? Explain.

2. How did Burger King manage the negative publicity it received over the content of its Coq Roq Web site?

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1. What do you think of Burger King’s advertising tactics? Is it OK to attract new customers while alienating others? Is Burger King’s advertising ethical? Explain.

Burger King's advertising tactics are certainly controversial. They gambled that by being outrageous and attracting any attention they could get, they would put themselves on the proverbial map and