Mark S. Pendolino



  Burger King's Interactive  


Interactive Media as a Marketing Tool


Resurgence of Online Advertising

Interactive Media's Effectiveness in Advertising

Burger King's Interactive

McLuhan and Marketing

Future of Interactive Media and Marketing





Innovation in Marketing: Burger King Makes Moves Online

Burger King was losing its market share.

Staying in step with McDonalds is a tough job. But Burger King was continually falling behind in sales. According to one estimate, Burger King’s U.S. sales in 2003 dropped to $7.9 billion from $8.3 billion a year earlier. But in the same period, McDonald’s sales rose to $22.1 billion from $20.3 billion, and Wendy's climbed to $7.4 billion from $6.8 billion (Swearingen 2004).

One of the problems pointing to this decline was Burger King's inconsistency in messaging and advertising. They had changed their brand strategies and advertising agencies almost as often as they changed their CEOs (Swearingen 2004). They needed a way to get back to basics, zero in on one prominent message. Hence, the return of "Have it Your Way."

The "Have it Your Way" message is resonant with a lot of people. The 1974 slogan still conjures up an association with Burger King any time you hear it. The company decided it needed to resurrect the slogan and change it's tactics.


Hiring and Firing

The first action was to abruptly fire their advertising partner, Young & Rubicam, and hire a new partner, Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), of Miami. This happened in January of 2004 (Taylor 2004).

The next step, launch multiple, interactive, integrated campaigns targeted specifically at the ever-elusive 18-34 year-old male audience. This group, known to be fully wired and with deep pockets ready for the emptying on gadgets and food, was Burger King's (BK) target in the new campaigns. And, along with their somewhat comical, somewhat quirky television ads, BK decided that interactivity was the key in spreading the message.

BK executives found that reaching their target group over the Internet was a challenging task.

"This is a target audience that requires high entertainment value in the way you connect with them," BK's chief marketing officer, Russ Klein said in an interview with USA Today, "Over the past year we've shown we like unconventional (marketing)" (Howard 2004).

According to CP+B interactive creative director, Jeff Benjamin, the target group likes to take part in new ideas, "They like to have a sense of discovery," he says, "We're trying to give people something to talk about." And that they did.

Another advantage to using interactive media is its empowerment of consumers to maintain control and to customize their entertainment - an inherent link to the Have it Your Way theme. Some analysts predict that BK has an opportunity in its new advertising to take the lead in "customer relationship management," the heart of the service industry that many service marketers, including restaurant chains, often ignore (Cebrzynski 2004).

"Mass customization is what's in right now," BK spokesman Rob Doughty said in an interview with Nartion's Restaurant News , adding that CP+B, along with BK, decided to revive the tag line because of its "very strong equity. It's something that resonates with today's consumers."


The Interactive Sites

Burger King, along with CP+B, launched a succession of web sites under the BK moniker, but not necessarily fully evident at all times. The four sites included:

  • - a strange web cam-based site that features a disturbing person-in-a-chicken-suit, complete with garter belt and ankle bracelet, that responds to commands typed by the viewer. The chicken responds to a number of pre-recorded commands, some 300 or so. It will dance, shake its feathers, and, when given a morally questionable command, wave a shaming finger at you.
  • - a motivational-speaker take off promoting BK's Angus beef burger. The fictional guru, Dr. Angus, speaks to you in uplifting terms, yelling "Way to Go!" and promoting his fake diet.
  • - an interactive flash site that allows users to delve deep into a maze of maps, interactive surveys, email requests, and other community-oriented interactions. The site is obviously aimed at the teen to early 20s set, playing hip-hop music and using the vernacular of the younger generation.
  • - an online game/streaming video site that plays on the idea of two chicken types (spicy and tender) battling it out for the number one spot. The site offers an online chicken fight game that lets users track their high scores, customize their fighting chicken and involve friends.

The push for integration, humor, and innovation on BK's sites is unparalleled and has garnered much attention. We take a look at some screen shots and other details on the next page.




Burger King's Strange yet Uniquely Appealing "Subservient Chicken" Lounging Around