Analysis of Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” Marketing Campaign and the Pros and Cons of Viral Marketing
Genius or risky? The response to this issue could go either way when you look at the advertising campaign “Whopper Freakout” by Burger King. This campaign was launched on December 9th, 2007 on Burger King’s 50th anniversary (Lenze 3). Its aim was to market the whopper burger that was Burger King’s most famous product. At the heart of the campaign was the commercial “Whopper Freakout,” which featured true clients responding to the news that the whopper burger was permanently cut off from the menu of Burger King. The commercial also sampled reactions from real customers who were offered an alternative burger from competitor brands after they had placed orders for the whopper burger from Burger King. This commercial went viral online and further its popularity was enhanced by television commercials and adverts online and in print.
The mix of internet viral and TV campaigns is indeed the genius component of Burger King’s advertising campaign “Whopper Freakout”. This marketing strategy captured larger markets than online or television campaigns, each used on their own, would capture (Eick). The TV commercial was watched by thousands and thousands of individuals and the marketing message reached not only the typical whopper bugger fan but also so many other individuals who could possibly start to prefer the whopper burger to other brand burgers. Burger King’s utilization of the “Whopper Freakout” television commercial in strategic slots such as during breaks in major sports tournaments was another genius move that captured the attention of numerous Burger King’s male customers and sports enthusiasts who were fans of the whopper bugger.
Another wonderful move by Burger King was the internet campaign in the form of the viral video. Although quite different in concept than other viral videos, the “Whopper Freakout” online campaign generated over 1.3 million views of the original 7.5 minute video (Eick). Reactions from real customers in the video “hit home” more for viewers whose reactions largely ranged between increased loyalty to the whopper bugger and interest in it from audiences who had not previously ordered the whopper bugger (Eick).
It is also clear that Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” campaign also hit the mark when buzz created from the television and online campaigns served to generate more interest on the video posted on Burger King’s whopperfreakout website and on YouTube. The success of this marketing campaign can also be seen on analysis of how popular online searches for the keywords “whopper burger” and other words related to this product were in the period following the launch of the campaign. When considering online statistics, this marketing campaign is easily termed as brilliant based on how its online popularity, soon after the campaign was launched, ranked higher than the online popularity of one of the 2008 U.S top presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton, at the same period of a peak political event. The hits for the “Whopper Freakout” video on whopperfreakout.com were ranked above the hits on hillaryclinto.com from people searching for information on this presidential candidate (Eick).
Could the marketing campaign of Burger King have advertised the whopper burger so much on adverse evaluation to the loss of popularity of other products in its chain? There is a chance that this could have been the upshot of the “Whopper Freakout” campaign. It could also demonstrate that Burger King accomplished its marketing objective of demonstrating that the whopper burger was essential to American food culture.
The “Whopper Freakout” campaign by Burger King gave viral marketing a whole fresh significance and what it can do for a company and its products. Viral marketing has its pros and cons from both the Burger King case and the entire marketing viewpoint. Viral marketing is a great way for a business to gain exposure beyond its popular markets. Through the sharing of viral marketing messages online, a business can gain new attention from customers who were unfamiliar with it and its products. With viral marketing a business, new or old, has an opportunity to gain fast recognition in its markets (“Viral Marketing”). Social media and online messaging platforms such as emails facilitate the speedy transfer of online marketing campaigns to customers and consequently faster response in the form of sales to buyers. Viral marketing is also cost friendly compared to other marketing strategies. This is in terms of ROI, return on investment from a particular market. The Burger King case of the “Whopper Freakout” campaign generated huge returns from investment in television commercials that were paid back in addition to the following hits on online videos.
The downturns of viral marketing begin with the risk of failure and thus wastage of time and money among other resources. Viral marketing is dependent on the buzz created around online videos and ads (“Viral Marketing”). If little or no buzz is created around such, the viral marketing becomes a failure and a waste. Viral marketing depends on specific use of the right launch contacts. A business is required to have contacts that are active online, for instance, individuals who spend substantial time online and can thus spread marketing campaigns to larger populations. Failure to capture the right persons leads to failure of the campaign. Viral marketing is a tough sale that requires daily and continuous input perhaps more than any other marketing strategy. The effort and time towards this are discouraging for businesses.
If conducted well, a viral marketing campaign can be very successful. The success of the “Whopper Freakout” campaign by Burger King was based on several factors.
The creativity and boldness to put up and use an unconventional marketing campaign contributed to Burger King’s success. This aspect of the “Whopper Freakout” video is what generated the buzz and how the commercial was able to blend humor with shock captured two key elements that contribute to the success of viral marketing.
Backing up of the “Whopper Freakout” video with other marketing platforms helped to boost its popularity, not just by word of mouth but also by deliberate move by audiences to watch the video online and visit the whopperfreakout.com website.
Use of real customers was also influential in this campaign’s success. The campaign emphasized how important the whopper burger was to customers who had grown up eating it for decades. The “Whopper Freakout” campaign did not just “show” the market the place of this burger, but it made them “feel” its importance. Use of real customers also generated buzz about Burger King’s marketing campaign because it enforced authenticity of the marketing message.
However, one of the drawbacks of the “Whopper Freakout” campaign was that it highlighted the limited line of brand products from Burger King. Despite Burger King offering other burgers and sandwiches in its menu, the campaign’s message can be used to conclude that the whopper burger is perhaps not just the main Burger King product but the only brand product this business has.
Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” full length video generated over 20 versions that were also available online after the campaign was launched. Among the versions was the “Whopper Freakout” ghetto version that featured black American customers reacting to the news that the whopper burger would no longer be served. Controversy raised from this was that Burger King’s campaign had made the move zero-in on one group of persons, hence raising racial stereotypes against the campaign (Lenze 5).
The social marketing experience using real customers was not well received by all people who reasoned that deprivation of customers of a favorite product, albeit under false pretense, was treating them as objects of mockery (Lenze 6).
From this marketing campaign, it could be right that Burger King lost some customers who after the social experiment were disappointed with the brand and that other customers were lost after still not understanding that the entire experiment was a prank.
Also Study: Burger King Case Study Solution
On seeing the negative implications of the “Whopper Freakout” campaign, suggestions for how the marketing could have been made more effective are the following. The campaign would have been better if a stronger message of attracting new customers had been used instead of mainly focusing on showing current customers how devastating it would be if the whopper burger was completely removed from the menu. An alternative marketing campaign that would not have raised ethical questions about Burger King as a business entity would have been used (Kotler & Armstrong 34). Intentionally lying to customers about the whopper burger being out of the menu for good could have exhibited lack of honesty from the Burger King brand. The whopper-freakout.com website should have been left running after the “Whopper Freakout” campaign ended so as to keep the marketing informed on statistics and information about the viral campaign (Lenze 11).
- Eick. “Analysis of the Whopper Freakout Campaign.” Jan 2008. Web. 4 May 2013. http://www.sogoodblog.com/2008/01/11/analysis-of-the-whopper-freakout-campaign/.
- Kotler, Philip, and Gary Armstrong. Principles of Marketing. 14 ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall PTR, 2011. Print.
- Lenze, Meagan. “Public Relations Case Study: A Look at the Burger King Whopper Freakout.” Whopper Freakout Case Studies, 12 Dec 2011. Web. 4 May 2013. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&ved=0CCwQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fmedia.wix.com%2Fugd%2F258166_338e913dba12a6e71d2e485870b169f0.pdf%3Fdn%3Dwhopper%252Bfreakout%252Bcase%252Bstudies%252Bcampaign%255B1%255D.pdf&ei=6wiGUau5GaGA0AG4o4HYBQ&usg=AFQjCNF4pTME3jjG1i8dv2r-5ghTdzB2fw&bvm=bv.45960087,d.dmg.
- “Viral Marketing Comes with Pros and Cons.” Business Knowledge Source, 2010. Web. 4 May 2013. http://businessknowledgesource.com/smallbusiness/viral_marketing_comes_with_its_pros_and_cons_034257.html.