Madness or genius? With Burger King, it’s always both.
For more than half a century, this fast food company has stayed on top of the game by producing some of the wildest, boldest, most audacious marketing campaigns in the history of the industry. Some have been spectacular and some have been total flops, but one thing is clear: for better or worse, they generate press. And for Burger King, all press is good press.
Here are some of our favorite Burger King marketing stunts:
SCARY CLOWN NIGHT: “COME AS A CLOWN, EAT LIKE A KING”.
The jury’s still out on clowns. Some love them, some hate them, but nobody can deny that they draw attention.
In 2017, Burger King’s Hamburger chain capitalised on the recent success of “It” to kickstart a bizarre campaign for Halloween. They promised to give out a free Whopper sandwich to its first 500 guests dressed in clown costumes on October 31st.
All participating clowns were were encouraged to post their costumes and tag @BurgerKing with #ScaryClownNight. This was a spectacular success: #ScaryClownNight was referenced in more than 1100 articles across 40 countries across the globe.
The best bit? Their promotional video launching “Scary Clown Night” shows clowns chasing a Burger King worker, and the first clown looks strikingly and suspiciously like Ronald McDonald, mascot of McDonald’s. For Halloween, Burger King treated themselves by haunting and taunting their biggest competitor.
THE WHOPPER SACRIFICE: “NOW IS THE TIME TO PUT YOUR FAIR-WEATHER WEB FRIENDSHIPS TO THE TEST”:
Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice was nothing short of brilliantly devious. Way back in 2009, it created a Facebook app offering its users a coupon for a free sandwich if they dumped 10 of their Facebook friends. And if that wasn’t bad enough, the app would send an amusing notification to each of the forsaken friends, informing them that they had been abandoned for a hamburger worth 37 cents.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this campaign lasted for just a week before Facebook disabled it, claiming that it was a violation of user privacy. However, within that time, it had exploded like wildfire: in just a few days, 60,000 people had installed the app and 20,000 coupons were distributed.
BURGERS AND BASKETBALL:
In 2021, Burger King in Spain launched the first basketball court you can eat.
A new partnership between Burger King and basketball video game NBA 2K21 prompted a bold new campaign. Video gamers could score free food in the Menu Court, customised to resemble a Burger King menu board with its most popular products.
Fans were encouraged to download the Menu Court in MyNBA (PS5) or MyLeague (PS4) and share their videos on Twitter with the hashtag #BKMenuCourt.
The promotion was available between 25th March to 4th April and popular Spanish gamers like RobertPG streamed their attempts at the challenge on YouTube and Twitch.
OPINIONS VS PREJUDICE: “OPINIONS ARE WELCOME, PREJUDICE IS NOT”:
In 2018, Burger King Brazil rolled out a commercial comparing understandable criticism against Burger King with prejudiced, hateful comments found on social media. Opinions like “I really hate Burger King. The smell makes me sick” are compared and contrasted to comments featuring gender-based, racial and anti-LGBTQ+ harassment.
While this wasn’t as dramatic as Burger King’s other campaigns, it raised an important and thoughtful issue in a simple, straightforward manner, showing its audience how valid opinions are often conflated with prejudice and discrimination.
SOCIAL DISTANCE CROWNS: “DISTANCING, BUT MAKE IT FASHION”:
In 2020, Burger King Germany devised a hilariously apt method to keep their customers socially distant.
They took to social media to announce their latest accessory: a brand new, massively wide cardboard hat intended to keep their wearers at least 6-feet apart. This was a clever way to reassure its customers that it was following appropriate pandemic protocol while also maintaining its playful, humorous spirit.
The abnormally large hats were all the rage in Germany and received appreciation from Burger King’s global customers.
It is safe to say that Burger King is a gold medallist when it comes to successful marketing. It has managed to combine resonance, lightheartedness and simplicity to ensure customer participation.