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Delete 10 of your friends on Facebook and get a FREE whopper!

March 27, 2009

What a shocking statement, but believe it or not, that was a recent Burger King Campaign in the USA.

Previously, in April 2005, Burger King landed a massive viral marketing hit (I have discussed viral marketing already in a previous article) with the campaign of the “Subservient Chicken“. The idea was simple, the success massive. A guy dressed in a quiet poor quality chicken costume standing in the middle of a random living room and performing a variety of commands, which can be inserted deliberately by the viewer. Nothing too special to be honest – but the web page turned out to be an enormous success.

Subservient Chicken

Subservient Chicken

According to an article of ViralBlog, Adweek reported that people got absolutely excited by submitting the weirdest commands, spent an average time of seven minutes on the page and also turned the subservent chicken into some sort of a “pop culture”.(read more here) It seems nearly impossible to find a command that bloody chicken does not do. From “jumping jack”, to “riverdance” to “handstand”… it even has a go when you type in “fly”.
According to AdWeek the page had over one million hits within the first day and 20 million hits within the first week. The entire campaign was launched because of Burger King’s, then newly launched, chicken sandwich that could be served the way customers wanted and thus, Crispin Porter‘s campaign for them.

When Burger King introduced another spicy version of the chicken sandwich, they created a campaign called “Chicken Fight” that was supposed to represent their two burgers fighting each other. Basically, a win-win situation for them, as Burger King never looses that way.

Chicken Fight

Chicken Fight

They wanted to express that their chicken burgers are outstanding and no one else but themselves represents competition. Some of you may even be familiar with the related spoof in Family Guy, where character “Peter Griffin” and  a giant cockerel fight each other meaninglessly over and over again without a clear winner, as the chicken to date has never died.

This second page (“chickenfight”) provided users the ability to vote on which chicken should win and also a game they could download and play. Unfortunately that page shut down in the meantime and does not exist anymore.

However, both of these sites showed high interaction potential from consumers by using new media, which appears to be an essential factor for successful viral campaigns. By taking part in the evolution of a multitasking chicken or by influencing a silly fight, fans got the feeling of being involved and engaged with the brand. According to Burger King the campaign was a great success and their web traffic increased massively.

With regard to Burger King’s return on investment AdWeek reports as follows:

“BK reported that sales had steadily increased an average of 9 percent a week. Since then, Geis says the company has seen “double-digit” growth of awareness of the TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich and “significantly increased” chicken sandwich sales. And the TenderCrisp does sell better than the Original Chicken Sandwich.”

Burger King’s “Subservient Chicken” and “Chicken Fight” made it into several marketing textbooks filed as successful viral campaign. Critics were concerned about the long-term benefit of these campaigns, but Burger King’s sales have improved since then.

Now they are back with another unusual campaign that attracted plaudits as well as heavy criticism. In their “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign on social networking site Facebook, Burger King created a campaign within the US that motivated Facebook users to delete 10 of their friends in order to get a voucher for a free Whopper.

Friendship is strong but the Whopper is stronger

Friendship is strong but the Whopper is stronger

Deleted friends were notified through a humorous notification sent by the application about what had happened and received the opportunity to send each other heavily branded “Angry Grams”.  The campaign took off and people were deleting each other for the sake of getting a free burger and obviously, added each other afterwards yet again. With reference to Inside Facebook the campaign was forced down by Facebook and the “functionality for violating users” had to be removed. Some argue that Facebook did not like Burger King encouraging aggression and that also caused some negative publicity.

A Facebook spokesperson announced to Inside Facebook the following:

“We encourage creativity from developers and companies using Facebook Platform, but we also must ensure that applications meet users’ expectations. After constructive conversations with Burger King and the developer of the application, they have decided to conclude their campaign rather than continue with the restrictions we placed on their application.” (Read the full story here)

Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice

Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice

According to the magazine The Marketer some bloggers were labelling the “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign as “puerile” and “obnoxious”. It must definitely have caused some negative publicity, but to date it is unclear for what exact reasons Facebook decided to intervene. Referencing the New York Times, Burger King responded with the following statement:

“While Facebook was a great sport, they did ask for changes that would have resulted in a different approach to our application, counter to what we developed […] Ultimately, based on philosophical differences, we decided to conclude the campaign and chose to ‘sacrifice’ the application.” (Read more here)

This was another very successful online campaign that seems to have appealed to  Burger King’s target audience. However, this sort of promotion may not be appropriate for every brand; as such an irreverent approach carries high risks for serious damage in brand reputation. The fact is that Burger Kind did their job well in terms of evaluating in advance whether their target audience will appreciate or turn down the campaign. Brand awareness and web traffic were definitely increased. At the point of closure the campaign generated 234,000 “deleted friends” which counts for over 23,400 free Whopper coupons.

Given the low costs of the campaign and the also pretty low NET costs of a burger for Burger King, the campaign must have had a positive return on investment. Free online as well as offline media coverage and lots of buzz – what else do you want as a brand, when you know that your campaigns appeal to your target audience?

Now the very important question (please vote):

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25 comments

  1. family guy rules! only show which still makes me laugh a bit…


  2. …too bad, they had to take the app. down 😉


  3. nice one. way more wit than most of the applications on facebook. good publicity for both companies involved I’d say. facebook once again out there, being mentioned all over the world. free advertising. Once again a win-win situation.


  4. The 21st Century is passing me by … and I’m really glad if this is how marketing is done! It reminds me of the famous Milgram experiment – unjustified behaviour in order to gain something for yourself. Publicly dumping friends to get a burger involves essentially the same thought process as delivering an electric shock to an innocent person in the next room to get approval from the supervisor … although obviously on a different scale.


  5. in my mind it is problematic from the ethical point of view. bk requires people to delete facebook”friends” just for the reason of a free burger. even though people are able to readd their ex”friends” it still remains that they prefer to consume unhealthy burger over showing real friendship. i think this is exemplary for a whole capitalistic society system.
    but, of course bk´s marketing strategy is absolutely clever and futuristic as they start to connect the target groups personel with their products.


  6. i dont feel it is unethical for them to do what they did and if it works as marketing they have done well as anyone can use this as a form of marketing. as i dont use facebook or spend time watching this sort of thing on the net it does not impact on me and i dont like burgers. people can always choose. they dont have to eat burgers, they dont have to delete their friends.


  7. I have never ate at burger king and never intend to so it not something that would interest me but I have to admit, I would have loved to have thought of that


  8. Ok, I’m with it!

    I’m a facebook “User” and I would immediately delete 10 people of my “friendslist”.

    To call them all “friends” is exaggerated because not all of them all really “friends” of mine.

    I use facebook to keep in contact to people I met through my life. Sometimes you just add people that went to the same school and you are happy to connect with them again or you just add people you met on a meeting, event, party. Some of them are friends of yours keeping in contact or just knowing you will have such a nice chat when you see them again. Others are indifferent when you meet them or send them a message and you realize, it was just the exitement of the first contact or the curiosity of know what happend with their life through facebook.

    So from time to time I just update my friendlist and delete people i’m sure i wouldn’t know what to talk about when we see next time.

    Burger king offers me a burger for it? Thanks! At least it helps me to close the circle of my friends and open my world to the one i love;P

    PS: Why does Peter Griffin always fight with the cookerel? I saw it different times on TV and never get the point. But in this cartoon is exactly the senseless funny.


  9. First, thanks for all that comments, keep going I am very interested in your opinions!

    In my view, Peter Griffin and the cockerel are fighting like the two chickens in Burger King’s campaign “the chickenfight” where none of the chickens really dies. Basically, a never ending fight, as referred to in the post it is a “win-win situation” for Burger King, as well as for Peter and the Cockerel – he always opens an eye in the end (horror movie like) and comes back at some point.


  10. Good for getting loads of attention – hence working.
    I would never delete friends from Facebook, for a burger!

    This advertisement just brings people to talk about Burger King.
    Sorry, but I usually don’t have conversations about Burger King or Mc Donalds – do you? Perfect advertisement to get the name in people’s brains again.


  11. so cool! I like the ideas of burger king! Even though I’m not a big fan of the whopper, I would definitely delete 10 friends (out of 500 or so, and then readd them – if I feel like…) to get a meal for free!
    bk’s marketing strategy is very close to the public and simple but clever at the same time, therefore everyone can get themselves involved, which, obviously, appeals to the target audience.
    How ever you will understand and like the idea of deleting friends for a burger, I think it is a very witty marketing strategy.
    Did you write this article joy?! As I studied advertising and marketing, I think it is a very interesting article!


  12. Hmmm, marketing following the old addages that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and you’ll never lose money by underestimating public taste.
    I’spose it’s clever marketing to hi-jack the trends of the moment, and I’m surprised it has increased their sales…
    I s’pose the really clever thing about these campaigns is that they are also cheap so it’s a win-win for advertiser.The Q for me is who dreamt it up? Was it a young kid who is into this stuff or some weary cynical advertising guy who trawls around in youth culture like some sad old voyeur. Hmm am I reall old and cynical? Send your answers on a post card to whateva’.
    Iteresting stuff..it’s made me think, despite my better judgement! 🙂
    Del the Cat
    Oh and did they pay to use the family guy clip?..if not there could be trouble for someone 😮


  13. good post! i like the “chicken fight” campaign, this can create more attention to their chicken burger…in stead of beef burger~


  14. I admit that I hadn’t heard of either of the campaigns, but now that I have, I can see the appeal of both of them. To Burger King, who have managed to create a significant amount of publicity (and certainly, even in the case of the Facebook campaign, no publicity is bad publicity – as long as you don’t alientate your customers) at little cost compared to a traditional marketing campaign, and to their customers who have the feeling of being involved in the campaign, rather than just being the target of it.

    I suspect that a large majority of people on Facebook would have 10 people they would delete (I have deleted several myself) and I suspect that the originators of the campaign already knew that.

    The chicken, while not really the same at all, reminds me of the Sandi Thom incident where a the singer performed a number of gigs online from her basement flat, before it was discovered that it was part of a carefully orchestrated plan by a PR company.

    I think it’s the use of the unexpected that connects them in my head.


  15. i’d prefer to see homer fighting this cockerel 😀


  16. Although I never heard of it before reading your article, I think the facebook campaign by Burger King sounds quite clever. I personally would have seen the funny side of it had I been publicly dumped on facebook by a friend in aid of a free burger. I would also have possibly dumped some friends as a joke (planning obviously to add them again later)not necessarily for the free burger though. It seems to me like although these campaigns are being reported as successful and that BK have stated rises in sales of the related product from each of the campaigns I’m not sure that they would do anything more than get people talking about the brand and the add but not necessarily encouraging purchases of their food.


  17. I would do it for a McDonald’s burger!! ;-)))


  18. In my opinion Layla’s point of view is correct: The aim of the advertisement is that people are talking about the campaign and therefore accomplishes a wider audience, which includes new customers for burger king and new members for facebook. Its a win-win situation for both companies.

    The article achieves one of the best marketing strategy: word of mouth.


  19. What a clever marketing strategy! Well…I am no Facebook user, but I can see the marketing opportunity here. As it has been said in prvious comments, there is great benefir from word-of-mouth and free media coverage on a low cost basis.


  20. annemarie, i thik you should get a facebook account…
    gruss von “nebenan” 😉


  21. Great marketing strategy. Shame it can’t be directed to more worthier causes. Money I guess?


  22. think they reach the target they wanted to. people r talking bout FB, BK and the whopper, well done. perfect advert for all of them. doesnt matter if u delete ur friends, u can add them afterwards again. think the main thing is to make the whopper popular. and so the whopper never die’s, like in the fam guy video, u can fight agains it but at the end u will have one.
    think i wouldnt delete friends, to much hassel, just for a burger! people are like gaggle animals, if one is doing the step heaps r following them. peace out… 🙂


  23. Hi nice blog 🙂 I can see a lot of effort has been put in.


  24. this idea was great! i mean, i’d love to delete a few friends on facebook to get a free whopper… 🙂


  25. i did not know that companies will do that. However u might loss your long lasting friends just for a free whooper and i do not think that is worth it at all.



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