burger king

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Experience is hot marketing word these days. It is rooted me thinks in user experience (UX), which started in the early days of the web when sites were hard to navigate and not intuitive. Ad and digital agencies caught on to experience a few years later as a way to create new buildables (content) and garner planning fees It didn’t hurt that “customer journey” and “communications planning” were smart ideas to begin with.

Product experience, some will have you believe, starts with communications and ends with the after-sale. The experience is everything in between. A lot of product experience buildables – designed to follow the AIDA principle: Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action — are online and in-store. But product gesture is different.

Product gesture is not so much about the product journey and surround as it is the “consuming experience.” (See my last blog post.) A product gesture is the olfactory response that occurs when you drive by a Burger King. It’s why “flame broiled” is such a powerful brand asset of BK. For Coke, whose long standing brand idea is refreshment, the moment when your head snaps back after a full swig of a newly opened Coke is induced by the product gesture. Google’s product gesture occurs during search when your problem is solved, you smile and twitch to act.

Every product has a gesture. Man-made gestures like the Stella Artois pour and glass are distant seconds, but they are gestures nonetheless.

Find your product gesture and you will find marketing and branding success.

What is your product gesture?


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I read an interesting piece of research today, originally published in Science Magazine. The findings suggested a face-to-face talk with someone about a topic in which the conversation initiator has a stake is an effective communications tool. (Sounds like a duh, no?) The poll was conducted with a sample of 972 people and the topic was gay marriage. The methodology was neighborhood canvassing and the targeted people were against marriage equality. It turns out 20% of people who were engaged by canvassers changed their minds. What’s even more interesting is that only those canvassed by gays maintained that changed opinion 9 months later.

A couple of observations:

  • Nobody likes to be sold. Most door knockers are selling and it’s a nuisance. The script in this case called for canvassers to speak, listen, ask questions, show respect and dig deeper. The robotic spew was left at home.
  • Canvassers with skin the game are more believable and more convincing. Personal connection to the topic reduces the “sales” factor. (Non-gay canvassers altered opinion, but not over time.)

The study suggests a tactic that might be more effective than most in dealing with long time, deep seeded conflicts such as Christians-Muslims and Blacks-Whites. Why wouldn’t it work for Red Sox-Yankees or Burger King-McDonald’s. Tink about it (as my Norwegian Aunt might say.) Peace.


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I’m a big Lindsey Vonn fan.  It borders on creepy but not creepy enough to visit her Facebook page. Yesterday, Lindsey announced she pulled out of the Sochi games.  I learned about it on Twitter. She in in my Facebook feed, I think, but doesn’t show up so much as she’s kind of busy.

As an adult and marketer, I have started to coalesce my thoughts on social networks. Readers know I’ve long said Facebook is for friends and school peepsLinkedIn is for people with whom I have done business (ish)Twitter is for all of the above plus likeminds and admirees.  Twitter is where I share my total persona. Some politics. Some personal philosophy.  Some troll-able business scat (not the dung).  It is where I hope to learn from others, often those unknown. Twitter is my most expansive social network.  

Facebook is only as good as the shares — and sharing is magnified based on how close you are to the person. I’m not going Gaga over a 7th grade crush showing pictures of her kids in Clearwater (Facebook). Your feed is watered down if it has too many uninteresting posts. Burger King is offering $4.00 duck burgers. That said, I really don’t cull the “follow herd” and that’s an issue for Facebook.  Too much noise in the feed.

What to do about it.

Remove unwanted friends, peripheral people and brands from your Facebook community.  You can always add them back.  You can always find the brand if you need it. Play LinkedIn by the book and only connect with those you have done business with. The rest is spam.  And fly like a birdie on Twitter. Note to Twitter: don’t extend beyond 140 characters.  Where does this leave marketers? Better off. With more traffic to their own sites and ads that are more powerful because they are ads – not friends. Peace.


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For Profit Browser.

The online world is all abuzz about priv-ah-see. There’s a new icon that will be appearing on social sites soon that will allow visitors to turn off tracking software, making it harder for advertisers to target users based on behavior.    

Salesforce.com, a business software package growing faster than kudzu in Georgia, is an information gathering tool that lets corporations track their salesforce activity so that if a sales person leaves the company their records, communications and contacts don’t too.

Twitter.com plans to monetize by placing ads or links based on the likes and dislikes of its Tweeters. Instead of Burger King placing ads on Epicureous.com they will soon be able to place them among Twitter followers of Eddy Curry, the New York Knicks center with the penchant for caloric foods.

Research suggests that Teens, Tweens and Millennials aren’t nearly as anal about online privacy as are pundits, but that will change. There is already a cottage industry developing – advertised on radio of all places – whereby people can pay to wipe out their online doings.  We need a quick way to toggle between social and private. I think it should be a browser-based tool.  When I’m shopping, I want help. When I’m surfing, I’d prefer to be left alone.  And I might just pay for that type of browser.  Peace!

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The Burger King Whopper is a great product. Many people, myself included, feel it is far superior to McDonald’s Big Mac.  The problem with BK has always been product consistency. One day a Whopper can be sublime – the perfect fast food burger.  Fresh, crunchy, a perfect combination of backyard BBQ, veg. and condiments (the tomatoes are always an issue in the winter), the next day it can be cold, greasy and sporting an almost fruit cocktail-like mush of ingredients.    

As a student of Burger King, I thought their investment in new broiler technology a year or so ago was going to change the fast food world. It did not. McDonald’s is still kicking their butt in consistency. Broiling is BK’s point of difference, but it won’t hold up to poor in-store execution.

Today a Brazilian consortium of investors by the name of 3G is likely to make a move on Burger King.  In my view they are buying a business and a brand with so much upside it’s scary. The new owners need to establish almost NASA-like precision, though, with regard to product quality, especially in franchise stores. Forget the advertising for the moment. Forget the children’s playrooms and store color palette.  Get the core product right, make it consistent and the category will turn in your favor. Especially as you roll out internationally. Peace!

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McDonald’s just reported sales and they are up 2.2% worldwide, missing analysts’ targets. Sales in the US were expected to be up 2.8% and came in at 1.7%. Value meal wars were partly to blame, but if you ask me the whole McCafe product extension is the cause. The New York Times reported the story – not a big one I might add – and nowhere is there a mention of the McCafe coffee line. I didn’t like the gourmet coffee move when I first read about it, and I don’t like it now. It’s not core.

Burger King, on the other hand, which for all its strategic and tactical ups and sideways owns the idea of “flame broiled,” decided not long ago it wanted to upgrade stores with state-of-the-art broilers. If memory serves, they’re supposed to be installed pretty soon. (I’ll have my fact checker get on it.) This is Russ Klein’s major stroke of genius. Crispin Porter, his agency, does great work and the King is the King, but flame broiling is what sets BK apart — and what should help them take a big chunk out of McDonald’s market share. Peace!

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Google recently was dinged by an ex-worker for its data-driven design approach. The not-so-disgruntled worker suggested Google tests everything before making any firm design changes — the hue of the blue, for instance. If dark blue clicks through better than sky blue, dark is published.


Marketing is about “science” and “art.”  Finding the right mixture is the key. Creative directors hate focus groups and research that dictates what form the art will take. And data geeks feel the creative people are self-absorbed megalomaniacs. Automation vs. curation is what we’re talking about here in the digital age. There’s no formula for the perfect combination of these dueling approaches but they must both sit at the table.  Art and science. Left brain, right brain.


The best marketing shops are those that thrive in this coexistence. It’s not peaceful coexistence and it shouldn’t be, but it must be respectful. Burger King’s CMO Russ Klein might say this coexistence should be a couple of baby steps from “conflict.” Peace!


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Carl’s Junior, a hamburger chain with locations in the Western United States, has long been a fast food advertising poser. It has tried to break through and had some momentary hits but never really latched onto a powerful branding idea.


An article in today’s New York Times, however, shows they do finally have an idea and seem to be supporting it. “Young and hungry,” though slightly derivative of Burger King’s strategy is a tight, actionable branding idea.  I say it touches upon BK’s strategy because from a business standpoint the real turn around at Burger King IMHO was when it decided to target young males with big appetites, getting them to double and triple up their meat intake. And celebrate it.


Carl’s Junior has employed as spokesman Rob Dyrdek. Though not young, Mr. Dyrdek is certainly hungry and quite the skateboarding phenom. He comes with a prepackaged young and hungry persona, an MTV show or two, a strong following among the target and he does tricks. 


If Carl’s plays its cards right and manages this branding idea correctly, e.g., make the food look good (off-camera), serve obscene portions, etc. it will gain share hungrily. Peace!


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Crispin Porter Bogusky’s work for Burger King, love it or not, has contributed to the fast food giant’s resurgence. I believe it’s their strategic help, especially in targeting young men, that has turned the tide more than their creative, but let’s not quibble.
A recent example of Crispin’s smarts can be found in its use of creative talent Seth MacFarlane to help sell burgers. Mr. MacFarlane, the creative force behind “Family Guy,” will be creating animated BK spots running as pre-roll for his new internet property called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy” which will be distributed via Google.
As a believer that content is king when it comes to creative, this is a brilliant move. So long as he isn’t spread too thin, Mr. MacFarlane who really knows how to talk to BK’s core audience should kill with this creative. Watch out Mickey Ds, Burger King is winning over future fathers who in a couple of years will be driving right by the Golden Arches with the kids.

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If you are a student of marketing, fast food is a very exciting category.  It responds immediately to advertising.  Burger King is on its way back for the zillionth time and it looks as Crispin Porter Bogusky’s work is finally paying off.  Never a big fan of all the “king” advertising, I do appreciate how he is weaved into the core (youth) customer message of “eat big , eat tasty.”
On a roll since “I’m loving’ it” and especially so since the launch of salads, McDonald’s is currently pursing a pretty smart beverage strategy and has a winner on its hands with the new Southern Style Chicken sandwich. Maybe the new chicken sandwich will help win back some share lost to Burger King. And you can tell Mickey Dees is feeling a little Whopper pain because they’re launching a new promo for the Big Mac. But here’s the rub: to get younger customers interested in this dated sandwich, McDonald’s is hosting a consumer generated contest. Dohhhh!
According to an Ad Age interview: “Customers will be able to go online, create or mix their own version of the two all-beef patties jingle through MySpace,”  the best of which will be aired on TV. For those who don’t know the old Big Mac jingle it went something like this: Two all beef-patties, cheese, onions, pickles, lettuce, special sauce on a sesame seed bun. (Does it get any “funner” than that?)
This is an example of a marketing meeting gone wrong where the alpha fe/male says, “We need a promo, let’s do something with consumer generated content.” and the rest of the room does the account executive nod.
They’ll get lots of entries, I know. They’ll sell some incremental Big Macs, I know. And it may be worth a quarter’s worth of improved sales, but it’s still a lazy tactic for a fast food juggernaut.

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