Tuesday, January 8, 2008

A Whopper of a Marketing Gamble

Burger King just decided to join the reality TV / viral marketing / microsite game with its new "Whopper Freakout" campaign (www.whopperfreakout.com). The premise is simple: how angry would people get if they took away the Whopper?

This is a bold play to generate buzz, but how much buzz is really being generated? And at what risk? This actually seems like a lose-lose proposition when you think about it. If you threaten to take it away and no one cares, then what? If you threaten to take it away and people freak out (which was the desired intention it would seem), then you've just made a lot of your most loyal customers mad. Lose-lose.

Here's the bigger point: they tried to create a viral marketing campaign by creating the microsite and utilizing the reality aspect. But the only way to really generate buzz or any kind of viral momentum in this case is to keep the scam going for some time. People would create "bring back the Whopper" blogs and petitions, and BK would be all over the news, which in theory would be the objective. That's an enormous risk, which wisely, they avoided. If you watch the video on the microsite, they reveal right off the bat that it's a gag. Once that happened, the viral potential vanished. It just turned into a weak gag reel that you might see before the previews in a movie theater. Furthermore, in all honesty, the customers really didn't freak out. They were surprised and confused, but no one jumped over the counter.

When all is said and done, they accomplished their objective: to demonstrate that people love their Whopper. OK, I buy that. But they could have accomplished that in many other ways, most of which would have been even more genuine and in all likelihood more effective (think: "How much do you love your Whopper?" contest). The issue I have is that in an attempt to demonstrate marketing savvy, they basically created a gag reel disguised as a viral marketing campaign. I got the message, but the execution fell below my expectations.

But then again, here I sit, writing about it!

What are your thoughts? Success? Gag gone bad?

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