What's caught my eye... Burger King.
Updated: Mar 1
A few days ago Burger King unveiled a global campaign aimed at highlighting its commitment to dropping all artificial preservatives. It's an incredibly bold approach, where each advertisement sets out to show a Whopper (their marquee product) whose ingredients are engulfed in mould, alongside a date stamp that lets you know how long the burger has been exposed to the elements. The execution is then rounded out with the tagline 'the beauty of no artificial preservatives'.
Within the marketing world, there's been a huge amount of talk about it. Every trade press publisher has set out to cover it. Every marketer on Twitter has thrown out their opinion on it. Including me. And I think it would be fair to say that majority of these same people think it's one of the more clever, brave and creative ideas in many, many years. But... is it good advertising?
The 'well, it's got you talking about it' retort will be thrown up as proof of point that it is, but whilst generating word of mouth is certainly a key outcome of advertising, is getting people to talk about 'the mouldy burger' ad the same as getting them to actually go out of their way to purchase a burger because of 'the mouldy burger' ad? Don't @ me (did I do that right?)
For me, great advertising has always been about the beautiful collision of art and science. The art in the creativity, the imagination, the aspiration. The science in the understanding of human behaviour, the acceptance of how the mind works, and the consideration of how we ultimately make decisions. And in the instance of our rotting burger, in creating the art, I believe the science has mostly been ignored. Or somewhat more forgivingly, just forgotten.
But before we enter the debate about who's right or wrong, it's worth just reiterating here that these comments are solely my opinion of the campaign. For what it's worth, I've not actually seen the campaign as a consumer. And if I did now, my confirmation bias would kick in and I'd still carry on with the same opinion.
The reality is that only time and sales will tell whether this is in fact good advertising. Everything in-between is an educated (or in some cases, uneducated) guess.
Results aside, given the debate of the campaign in our marketing bubble, I wanted to share four key takeaways for sports marketing and #sportsbiz professionals that I believe are worth considering:
1. Attention is what we want from advertising, but are people noticing what we need them to?
There's no question that this campaign grabs attention. But it's likely that the most salient part of this ad is the mould, of which the tag-line and logo will barely, if at all, be noticed by most people. And if people aren't recognising your brand, or worse yet, making their own conclusions about who the ad is for, then they're not going to remember your brand or associate your brand with the message you set out to deliver. So what's the point?
Our job as marketers of sporting clubs, particularly with smaller budgets trying to develop new fans, is to ensure that everything put in market is actually building awareness and recognition of our brand, whilst always being recognisably 'us'. We need to be consistent, utilise our distinctive assets and where possible, test our work against the actual audience to make sure that they're taking away what we want them to take away.
2. It's all about emotion, it always has been and it always will be, but are we evoking a positive or negative response? Because our brains always use frames of reference (in milliseconds) to help us decode what something is when we see it, the mould and image of a rotting burger, when compared to a fresh and safe-to-consume burger (that comes with eating from QSR's like Burger King), results in an emotional response of disgust, triggering avoidance (thread to survival). The only reason I could assume you would want someone to be disgusted by a burger advertisement is if you wanted that same person to not eat a burger. We constantly talk a lot about the behaviour we want to drive with specific advertising - and in our world, the call-to-action is usually 'hurry, buy tickets now', or 'join the family today'. But do we think enough about what emotion we're setting out to evoke when looking to execute a new ad, a new piece of content, an email or even a phone call? Having a solid idea of what emotion you want to evoke before executing is usually a wonderful place to start.
3. Branding is all about building connections in the brain but are we consistently building the right connections? There's a wonderful saying that's lived with me since my early days in advertising - what fires together, wires together. Given advertising exists to create, refresh or modify memory structures, if Burger King were to continue investing in this execution over time, they will likely create new memory structures between 'Burger King' and 'disgusting'. To the point where even seeing just a BK logo will bring to mind that word and worse yet, emotional reaction. Having a brand strategy that clearly defines and dictates the associations you want supporters, fans, members, commercial partners and alike to have for your club is pivotal for growth and establishing a reputation. Doing so will ensure that everything is then executed with consistency and intent, allowing you to either create, refresh or modify your target audiences thoughts and feelings towards your club.
4. A long-term strategy is vital, but executing it effectively in the short term is more important.
Whilst I believe that this campaign is part of a longer term strategy to reposition the brand as a more natural product (and hence a healthier choice), the reality is that 'what we see is all that there is'... building off the three previous points, the 'mouldy burger' ad in its current and isolated form may not be getting people to notice the right message whilst evoking a negative response and longer-term association. The reality is that everyday people don't read our comms briefs or marketing strategies. And because of this, they don't understand the bigger picture or plan. So any execution that's part of a longer term strategy needs to work on its own when in-market.
All that said, one of the best things about this campaign is that it is in fact brave. Too often, we all play it too safe. Which often results in everything from everyone looking and sounding the same. So I commend and encourage the constant endeavour to be bold in execution, and to be creative when going to market. But... just don't forget the science... or at the very least, the fundamentals of what advertising should and shouldn't do.
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Yours in sport.