Monday, June 8, 2009

Is walking away from a winning strategy a good idea?


The Effie award winners for 2008 have been named and the grand Effie was awarded to Burger King for its “Freakout” campaign. In case you’ve forgotten it, it makes use of a hidden camera to show the reaction of real people when they are told that the whopper has been discontinued. You can check it out again here:

I knew the campaign was a winner when my nephew, who was 14 at the time showed me clips of it on YouTube. According the Effie application, Burger King’s sales went up by double digits when it ran. (“Burger King Wins”, 2009)

Now comes the news that in the face of an unimpressive +1% increase in sales during 1st Quarter 2009, BK has decided to focus future advertising on items from its value menu, despite the fact that it has traditionally focused its advertising on its premium products. (“Burger King Promotes Value”, 2009)

Is this a wise decision given the current state of the economy? Or are they foolish to stop promoting their signature item?

(2009, June 4). Burger King Wins Effie Grand Prize For ‘Freakout’. Retrived, June 7, 2009 from

(2009, May 29). Burger King Promotes Value. Retrived, June 7, 2009 from


  1. I think they should stay with their tried and true approach on premium products to maintain comfort level for repeat customers but maybe dedicate a smaller budget to also running ads on the value items to win over new customers who may appreciate the bargain during this economy.

  2. Does Burger King care about whether people are going to their stores for the Whopper as opposed to the value menu?

    The reason I ask this is because those don't seem to be conflicting goals. I would imagine Burger King just wants people to come in and spend money (especially if they sell lots of soda, which I always thought was a high % profit item). The heavy user wants both premium goods as well as value goods from their fast food chains.

    I also tend to think that consumers operate on preference curves: meaning for BK that running the ads simultaneously would be a boon--consumers would come in fully realizing that they could afford a whopper AND a cheap dessert or cheap fries.

  3. This hit a WOW factor for me. I never would think that people would be so attached to a burger. After watching the emotional reaction the people had after hearing that the Whopper was gone I found it hilarious and effective. I've had a whopper before and after watching this ad it makes me want to have one to see what the hype is about.

    Given the economic market BK should focus more attention on their more affordable selections. Then again, this is a fast food restaurant, what makes an item "premium"? Since this ad was so successful I would continue to run this as well as one or two others that promote their more budget conscious items. Although a decline in sales has occurred the Whopper ad demonstrates that people are fanatical with the sandwich. Thus I believe that it would be wise to continue the current ad while demonstrating it's low cost through another ad.

  4. Generally, I think it's more effective to just show the product, in all its juicy, flame-broiled goodness. I often find myself hungry for a certain food after seeing it on TV in a commercial or on a show. Seeing people's emotional reactions to the supposed loss of the Whopper doesn't really sway me to purchase one. Instead, it just makes me think these people are a little strange and reminds me that Americans are somewhat addicted to fast food. This in turn reminds me of obesity in American culture and the film "Super Size Me." Not exactly what Burger King had intended...

    I do like the idea though. But again, it does not make me what to buy a Whooper.

    Burger King should promote both the Whooper and its value menu. Why are they mutually exclusive? They are both relatively inexpensive.


  5. This is the way i see it:

    First off, People who will go in to buy a Whooper are already sold. we see that through this "Whooper Freakout" campaign. These consumers love their whooper and nothing else at Burger King. One lady even says " There is no reason for me to come here anymore!" i mean that says enough. This campaign was amazing and the sales hike proves it but are those sales from people who are already Whooper buyers and are buying more Whoopers or did they actually acquire new customer that didn't buy Whoopers before? I think a campaign like this one is to remind consumers that they LOVE the Whooper and not to give it up because of value items from competitors.

    That brings me to my second point which is now that they reinforced their current customers why not go after the market they don't really have control over. Value is a BIG thing right now and they should want to get a piece of the pie. The strategy here is to acquire new customers and that can not be done with the "Whooper Freakout" campaign so I think it is wise for them to direct their efforts towards their value meals.

    See you all in class,


  6. When I was ten yrs. old I loved the BK Broiler, but I can’t remember the last time I actually went inside a fast food restaurant and ordered anything. The only use I have for fast food restaurants is the bathrooms: they are clean. If I’m in the car and need to stop, I’ll stop at a fast food restaurant. If I have a choice, I choose BK or McDonalds because their cleanliness is quite dependable.

    I would rather cook every meal myself than eat fastfood. Clearly, I am not the target audience. But here is what I think:

    The “Freakout” campaign is great (it did win the Effie) and while it ran in 2008 it served its purpose: increasing sales. Because it failed in those terms during the 1st Quarter of 2009, I think it is understandable why BK is changing its strategy. When something is obviously failing, it is smart to fix it. The loyal Whopper fans are going to buy the burger with our without advertising. The new campaign focusing on the value menu and hopefully a different target, one that doesn’t usually patronize BK, may prove to be successful.

    These days, everyone is looking to save money: the cheaper the better! In light of this, BK has made a wise decision to focus on the value menu. Perhaps the new “Value Menu” campaign will draw in new people who were not enticed by the Whopper. This target may be people who were spending their lunch money on more expensive but fairly fast restaurants such a Pret A Manger, Panera, Chipotle, Pax Wholesome Foods, etc., but now realize they can get a meal for half or even a quarter of the price at BK. Maybe these new customers will choose the least expensive option two or three days out of the week…maybe, just maybe.

    Another thought: Unlike the “Freakout” campaign(for obvious reasons), the new campaign could bring in vegetarians. A small garden salad, onion rings (do they use lard?), and a dutch apple pie all for the reasonable price of $3 could be hard to resist.

    But guess what else is on the value menu: the Whopper Jr. That’s good news for the Whooper fans and the economically sensitive. Maybe BK could give special attention to the Whopper Jr. in its new campaign…that way, no one feels left out.

    The “Value Menu” campaign may prove to be as unsuccessful as its predecessor in the 1st Quarter of 2009 and not because it is bad advertising, but perhaps for the same reasons that probably plagued the Effie winner: The economy. Until the economy turns around, people may just be committed to making more meals at home. For some that may be a more acceptable solution to their money woes than servicing BK, despite the value menu.

    I know it is for me.


  7. I hadn't seen the "Freakout" campaign and must admit it surprised me a lot. In very rare occasions (maybe twice a year) I go to Burger King, but I do prefer it to Mc Donalds, and the one thing that I always order is the Whopper. For sure, that if they were to discontinue the burger I would have no reason to go there anymore, so the “Freakout”campaign, which I think is excellent, hit even me, a very occasional consumer, in a way.

    However, in my opinion the decision to switch to “Value menu” campaign is a wise one according to the economic situation. Now, more than ever, people are carefully looking to how much they are spending, and if there is something BK can offer is cheap food, so I think it is smart to remind people out there.

    Lets see how it works.

    Maria N