In the ever-competitive world of fast-food marketing, Burger King has consistently taken a bold and unconventional approach to capture the hearts and minds of its customers. Their latest escapade? The audacious campaign that turned Google Home into an unexpected brand ambassador. In this case study, we'll delve into the details of Burger King's ingenious marketing strategy, highlighting its innovative use of technology and guerrilla marketing tactics.
Burger King is no stranger to stirring the pot when it comes to their marketing campaigns. If we rewind to the previous year's Peace Day stunt, where they famously proposed a "McWhopper" collaboration with McDonald's, it's clear that Burger King thrives on pushing boundaries. Fast forward to the beginning of this year, and Burger King decided to take on the tech giant, Google, in a marketing showdown that left everyone talking.
Setting the Stage
To understand the brilliance of this campaign, let's set the stage. Google Home, a smart speaker serving as a virtual assistant, had become a staple in many American households. Meanwhile, Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written and edited collaboratively by a vast online community, was accessible to anyone with an internet connection.
Burger King's primary goal was to boost brand consideration. However, they sought to achieve this by thinking outside the box and creating a buzz that would not only resonate with their audience but also generate discussions across the globe.
The challenge was clear: how could Burger King deliver a compelling message about their product in a short and engaging way? How could they prompt immediate action from their customers? And how could they make the media come running to them without splurging on advertising expenses? The answer was to play a wild card – leveraging Google, specifically Google Home, and the open-access platform of Wikipedia to become an unconventional marketing force.
Burger King's mission was simple: get consumers to utter their product's name, activate Google's search mode, and retrieve answers from Wikipedia. The result? A heated global debate and an intriguing showdown between Burger King, Wikipedia, Google, and the public.
The Creative Idea
"OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?"
This simple phrase was at the heart of Burger King's ingenious plan. Leveraging the ubiquity of Google Home devices in American households and the wealth of information on Wikipedia, Burger King's approach was refreshingly straightforward. Instead of a verbose advertisement describing the delectable Whopper burger, they encouraged consumers to ask Google Home directly. What followed was a "battle of responses" seamlessly orchestrated between Burger King, Wikipedia, Google, and the curious public.
The Launch: 12:01 PM
Burger King unveiled the campaign with a 15-second TV commercial. It featured an employee holding a Whopper and delivering a concise introduction: "You're watching a 15-second Burger King ad, which is unfortunately not enough time to explain all the fresh ingredients in the Whopper sandwich. But I've got an idea. Okay, Google, what is the Whopper burger?" Anyone watching the ad could follow suit, either through Google Home or an Android phone, saying, "Hey Google, what is the Whopper burger?" Google would then activate its search function and read aloud the Wikipedia entry about the Whopper.
To support this "plot," Burger King quietly edited Wikipedia's content to include glowing praise for their product: "The Whopper is a hamburger consisting of a 100% beef patty, with no preservatives, topped with tomato slices, onions, lettuce, pickles, ketchup, and mayonnaise, served on a sesame seed bun."
The Shutdown: 3:35 PM
As anticipated, chaos ensued on Wikipedia. Internet trolls and mischief-makers wasted no time altering the content to their liking. Some claimed the Whopper contained "cyanide," was carcinogenic, or even declared it the "worst hamburger product" from Burger King. Just three hours after the campaign launch, Google seemed unable to handle the chaos. Google intervened to prevent Google Home from responding to any requests related to Burger King, including the infamous "OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?"
The clash between Burger King and Google generated immense public interest, and on the same night, a new TV commercial hit the airwaves, leaving everyone curious about Burger King's next move.
The Comeback: 10:25 PM
Undeterred, Burger King had prepared alternative audio clips to bypass Google Home's blockade. Silently, a nearly indistinguishable version was uploaded and broadcasted online. Google Home was reactivated. To ensure continuity, Burger King uploaded a playlist of varied audio clips the following day. Google Home functioned normally once again, and Wikipedia's content was restored to its original state. Google had given up, but the public engaged in a vigorous debate about pre-programmed voice assistants and the limits of advertising.
This marked the moment when the Whopper became the focal point of billions of discussions worldwide.
PR and Media Coverage
Burger King's disruptive campaign captured the attention of numerous newspapers and TV channels. The New York Times was quick to label the advertisement as "the latest example of marketers infiltrating your living room." When Google disabled Google Home's response, The New York Times commented, "Burger King's 'OK, Google' ad doesn't seem OK with Google." And upon its triumphant return, The Verge proclaimed, "Burger King didn't hack Google Home, it hacked the media."
Social Media Explosion
The campaign ignited a firestorm on social media. Videos, tweets, posts, and passionate debates about the limits of advertising and the impact of smart devices on human life went viral. The campaign's results were staggering, making it a Global Trending Topic on Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Google Trends, with 9.3 million global impressions.
Burger King's audacious campaign paid off handsomely:
9.3 billion global impressions
$135 million in earned media
Over 15 million organic online views
Global trending topic on major social platforms
A 500% increase in brand mentions online
In the first 48 hours alone, the TV commercial achieved 10 million views, with approximately 700,000 Google Home devices "exploited" in the process. Burger King made history by becoming the first brand to use voice-activated technology to advertise a product, sparking a dialogue about the limits of advertising and the intrusion of technology. This campaign firmly established Burger King's name in the media spotlight.
Awards and Recognition
The campaign received widespread acclaim and earned numerous awards, including the prestigious Cannes Lions 2017 Direct Grand Prix.
In conclusion, Burger King's audacious campaign to turn Google Home into the Whopper's spokesperson was a remarkable success, showcasing the power of innovative marketing and guerrilla tactics. By leveraging technology and provoking the public's curiosity, Burger King not only boosted brand consideration but also set a new benchmark for unconventional advertising in the digital age.