In a market where e-commerce is outgrowing brick and mortar, technology influences buying decisions and Gen Z drive marketing strategies, industry leaders forecast the demise of traditional advertising. But not all brands are ready to let go and still see value in the medium. Instead, they are changing the way they approach advertising. Fast food giant Burger King is reaching into its bag of no-holds-barred tricks to outlive what it calls the “Adpocalypse.”
At a Cannes Lions panel called, “Survivor’s Guide to the Adpocalypse,” Marcelo Pascoa, Burger King head of global marketing and Fernando Machado, Burger King global CMO, let us in on the ways in which the fast food chain overcame creative bumps in three categories: design, technology and product innovation.
To kick off their candid presentation, the marketers showed drab images of outdated interiors at some Burger King locations prior to renovation. They noted that when the brand renovates restaurants, the location’s in-store revenue increases 12 percent. Beyond efforts to enhance customer experience inside their stores, Burger King evaluated weaknesses in the brand’s visual identity.
Machado pointed to an unsuccessful ad featuring a WHOPPER on a pillow, and jokingly said, “Who wants to eat a sandwich sitting on a pillow?” Their remodel solution involved imbuing menus, ads and mobile design with the brand’s “raw” tone, which yielded a “made-by-hand look” and even a logo for the WHOPPER, which the item previously lacked.
“Traditional advertising is still very much a part of what we do. We still need one-way ads to bring people into our restaurants, but traditional advertising will only take you so far. This is precisely the reason why we’ve been struggling and having some success in bridging the gap between getting guests to our restaurants and turning them into loyal fans,” Fernando told the audience.
Burger King prides itself on flame grilling its burgers (as opposed to frying them, like its competitors) since 1954, yet half of its 18-24 audience doesn’t know about this key differentiator. The brand’s research indicates the ones who do know Burger King flame grills don’t believe them, thinking it’s a marketing ploy.
Pascoa attributed the obliviousness to the fact that Burger King has never put the broiler on display for guests. And why would they? The machinery is industrial and not much to look at. But armed with consumer feedback, Burger King set out to redesign the broiler in an effort to communicate the brand’s “barbecue experience” and generate guest trust. They revealed to the audience never-before-seen footage of the redesigned broiler, noting that in stores where it’s been tested, the positive perception of Burger King food increased 11 percent.
However, in a crowded market, even trust isn’t always enough. To better compete against every other fast food restaurant leveraging delivery and mobile ordering to boost sales, Burger King relies on outrageous ideas that people want to personally experience. For example, earlier this year, the company set out to identify and collect every McDonald’s ad as part of its “Burn That Ad” campaign. They developed an augmented reality (AR) feature on the Burger King app that recognized McDonald’s ads, which when pointed at with a customer’s phone, would burn the ad down and reveal a Burger King coupon. The campaign was met with a 54.6 percent increase in in-app sales and garnered 1 billion impressions.
“At Burger King, we truly believe that creativity can be a competitive advantage. We’re not the biggest spender in the [design] category so whatever we do, it really needs to stand out and get noticed,” Machado told the audience.