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Burger King taps the power of memes

News, 07 August 2017
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CANNES: Burger King, the quick-service restaurant chain, believes there are major advantages to successfully creating memes with its marketing campaigns.

Fernando Machado, Burger King’s Head/Brand Marketing, discussed this subject at the 2017 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

More specifically, he reported, one goal for the company’s marketing is ultimately to create memes, the name given to a topic or piece of content spreading rapidly across social media.

“Every time we cross two billion impressions … we know we will become a meme. And that's the game we are playing,” said Machado. (For more details of the brand’s strategy, read WARC’s report: Burger King’s guide to “sucking less” as a client.)

Building on that theme, Machado argued the potential payoffs from this strategy include successfully making Burger King a part of the short-term zeitgeist. And the brand even tries to map out plans for such an outcome with its agencies.

“When you become a meme is when you're creating waves of pop culture. That’s why sometimes at creative presentations to the agency, we are discussing what the meme will be,” he said. “We think about the campaign as a meme.”

One example of this idea in action was a Burger King ad with a voiceover that automatically kick-started Google Home-branded interactive speakers, and made these devices read out the entry for its Whopper sandwich on Wikipedia.

Alongside generating significant press coverage on its release, the ad prompted a major debate about privacy, as well as tickling the funny bone of many consumers.

When Google issued a patch to override the voice instruction in Burger King’s commercial, the restaurant chain quickly recorded new voiceovers that could play over the top of the original ad.

And the net result was ten billion impressions, even though there were only an estimated 700,000 units of Google’s interactive device in-market at the time.

“It really made people curious and intrigued, and people wanted to engage with the content. And we definitely became a meme,” said Machado.

Data sourced from WARC

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