Easily some of the most controversial marketing tactics over the past couple of years have come from a very unlikely culprit: Burger King. From the brand that brought us the "Free FryDay" campaign back in 1998 alongside a very innocent Mr. Potato Head spokesman, now comes one questionable marketing stunt after another.
The most recent offense? Burger Shots. A slider-like burger, or something else? I don't have the stats on the demographics of my readers, so just in case some innocent child (who doesn't know how to click through a link) is reading this - I'm not going to write out what the slang term means. But if you're curious (and of age), click here. I've read blogs defending BK's honor, but I'm not going to give them the benefit of the doubt here - especially after seeing the commercial, which I would link to except it seems to have mysteriously disappeared from the web. It depicts a dorky guy showing his friend the Burger Shots, when the two friends are suddenly surrounded by a gaggle of girls making inappropriate noises that, in my opinion, the Burger Shots are really not worthy of unless they taste a lot better than they look.
The Burger Shots are just one of many marketing decisions that left me scratching my head. Back in December, BK launched Flame, a men's perfume that smells like burgers. The only thing more disturbing than the product itself is its accompanying web site "firemeetsdesire.com."
Then there was the Whopper Virgins campaign, where they went to other countries to try out a McDonald's vs. Burger King burger taste test on people who had never tasted hamburgers before. The video plays like some sort of humanitarian documentary, but I'm not buying it. Here we are, the charitable Americans handing out one of our most devastatingly unhealthy foods, while meanwhile, the food these people served the BK folks in return looks amazing. The video ends with a less-than-flattering quote, "I like seal meat better." Maybe they didn't edit that out in hopes of legitimizing the whole thing, but I think all it does is make a really good point.
Considerably less offensive was the Whopper Sacrifice campaign, one of the more brilliant methods I've seen of engaging facebook users. Next to their marketing catastrophes of late, this impressed me. All users had to do was delete 10 friends to get a coupon for a free Whopper. Unfortunately, facebook shut the application down, citing violation of the user's privacy, but by the time that happened 233,906 friends had already been sacrificed.
Analysis time. Why all the crazy, controversial campaigns? My theory is that they are up against some serious competition. McDonald's practically has a monopoly on the "happy" (golden arches, "I'm lovin' it," Ronald in his bouncy yellow clown suit), and Wendy's found their niche in the "healthy" (salads, gluten-free menu options, fruits, "It's waaaay better than fast food"), which left BK with the "huh?" And I think they've got it down. If there's one fast food brand that's being talked about right now - especially among Millennials - it's Burger King.