Russ Klein, President, Global Marketing, Strategy and Innovation at Burger King, spoke about the shifting media landscape and how Burger King is now emphasizing the empowerment of their consumers and building social currency. Russ’s overall message was that it’s all about the consumer.
The presentation opened with a video montage of recent Burger King advertising and media coverage that highlighted the bold marketing campaigns that they have launched in an effort to stand out in the competitive fast food industry. The video included The King, their 2004 Have It Your Way voter registration drive, their sports partnership with the NFL and NASCAR, Diddy TV and Burger King’s integration into video games and The Apprentice 3.
Burger King, which serves over 10 million Whoppers every day in 65 countries around the world, recently became a publicly traded company. As part of the IPO road show their theme was “Turning a Great Brand into a Great Business.”
Burger King’s goal has been to become a brand that people would love to know more about. Russ said that he’d like to see Burger King return to social relevancy and become “A brand that is on the move in pop culture. A brand that evokes curiosity and expectations of leadership.” Their goal is to be not just a good a brand, but a social brand.
Social currency starts with content, but Russ emphasized that the Burger King campaign has been driven in number of ways outside of traditional media. Content and consumption has changed dramatically and in order to gain this social relevancy it was necessary for Burger King to be on the forefront of the changing media landscape. The internet and blogs have shifted marketing power to the individuals and Russ feels that it was necessary to surrender the Burger King brand to the “collective conversation.”
With this new media landscape and an emphasis on word of mouth marketing, Burger King has adopted the marketing strategy of “Turning Your Brand over to the Consumer.” Their “Have it Your Way” campaign clearly comes from this line of thinking. Have it Your Way enables consumer empowerment and they have used this in their marketing campaign to create social currency.
Russ emphasized turning the brand over to the consumer even if it does mean giving up some control. Some negative discussions may take place, but it is more important to ingrain your brand in the social fabric of the core customer than worry about potential negative comments. It is necessary to accept the fact that people will sometimes say good things about your brand and sometimes bad things. “Get over it!”
In an effort to build social currency Burger King has made groundbreaking efforts with a number of initiatives such as their partnership with X Box 360, that has incorporated The King into video games, the launch of Diddy TV on YouTube and integration into The Apprentice 3. The King has more than 135,000 friends on his MySpace page and the Subservient Chicken website has received over 460 million hits from 185 countries.
Well, is Burger King’s word of mouth marketing campaign and emphasis on social currency working? Russ would certainly answer yes. Burger King’s gross profits are up 10.6% and restaurant operating profits are up 56.5% compared to three years ago. Burger King’s campaign has resulted in much higher levels of brand recall/likeability than in years past. Every time people are talking about Burger King or checking out the new “cool” Burger King viral campaign a smile comes to Russ’ face.