Is Burger King’s Marketing Sauce For Its ‘Angriest Whopper’ Spicy Enough To Drive Diners Mad?

Burger King’s spicy Red Bun is the latest attempt to attract young, mobile men. But as stats indicate, a service model that reflects on-the-go eating is what inspires burger fans.

Burger King’s introduction of its “Angriest Whopper” last week is actually the latest light-hearted attempt to attract young males to the participating franchises offering the spicy menu item.

The Miami-based chain, which runs about 7,000 outlets in the U.S., first struck media gold with its ground-breaking Subservient Chicken campaign in 2004. That campaign, created by Crispin Porter + Bogusky, was noted for its dedicated micro-site that still allows viewers to type in “commands” that a person in a chicken mascot outfit dutifully performs.

The addition of the Red Bun last week was intended to generate the same kind “buzz” via TV through digital channels. Considering the sales success that Burger King had with its attention-getting Black Bun — which analysts say helped generate a slight lift with revenues of 3.9 percent versus an expected 3.8 percent, Reuters reported — it made sense to find another color-themed product as part of the company’s Spring effort.

“The black bun of our A.1. Halloween Whopper created a lot of conversation and our previous limited time Angry Whopper sandwich was a hit with guests,” said Axel Schwan, Burger King’s global chief marketing officer in a statement. “So, we’re combining the power of these past hits into a star-studded sandwich we think our guests will unanimously agree is the next must-eat burger.”

Charts courtesy from Techtronic

Cutting Through The Clutter

Over the years, Burger King has continued its quirky marketing journey with the somewhat creepy masked “king” in TV commercials that were meant to attract younger consumers in contrast to the family-focused warmth and professional appeal of rivals like McDonald’s and Wendy’s.

But an off-kilter tone isn’t enough, as geo-targeting smartphones around its own franchises and that of its rivals has been a common tactic for years, starting with Verve Mobile three years ago.

“It’s important to have engaging content, but the question is whether it’s enough to break through the clutter of every other competitor that’s doing something fun as well,” Erik Thoresen, principal at food service industry consultant Technomic, told GeoMarketing. It’s a big challenge for them. Plus, everything is driven through mobile, since that’s the primary connection when people are out and looking for something immediate to eat.”

technomic-burger-king-competitors-cagr-chart-exportFaster Trumps Buzz

“Brand Buzz” does have its value — but just as a starting point.

For example, a YouGov BrandIndex survey recently asked respondents: “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

Since the beginning of the year, Burger King’s “buzz score” has more than doubled from 7 to 15. McDonald’s, which spent its pre-all-day breakfast months in the 3 to 5 Buzz score range, has been hovering between 14 and 17 ever since. Although Wendy’s leads the category with its Buzz score of 18, it is several points lower than the 25 score they had in November 2014. Burger King and McDonald’s are now three to five points away from Wendy’s, YouGov’s Ted Marzilli wrote.

But as Technomic’s sales figures found, the real impact on sales had to do with what kind of service was being advertised — and to whom. The consultant compared burger chain sales from “limited service” restaurants like White Castle to “full service” chains like Burger King and McDonald’s.

The idea is that mobile consumers may be amused by an entertaining message, but in order to drive actual walk-in and drive-thru purchases, the message also needs to be sharply on outlining the convenience and speed.

“Much of the innovation in mobile is driven by the limited service restaurant segment,” Thoresen said.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.