WWTT? 4 Years of Reviewing Marketing Campaigns

It’s another revolution around the sun, and I have spent another year looking at marketing campaigns, talking about what I think works really well, and the things that are less than stellar for “What Were They Thinking?”

It’s another revolution around the sun, and I have spent another year looking at marketing campaigns, talking about what I think works really well, and the things that are less than stellar. And while “What Were They Thinking?” formats have switched a bit to include more written content alongside video, it’s still been a pleasure to dig into the marketing creative being put before consumers on a daily basis.

During that time, I’ve looked at Burger King’s Moldy Whopper campaign, discussed creative marketing from a cemetery, and shared how Pedigree helped get some shelter dogs their forever homes during the pandemic.

And of course, who could forget about the marketing campaign that married a box of House Wine with Cheez-It? Absolute proof that if you tweet about something you love enough, you might be heard:

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Or what about that time Popeyes kicked off the Chicken Wars … then ran out of chicken? (I still haven’t tried that sandwich yet.) While fans of the chicken restaurant tweeted excitedly about the new sandwich last summer, Popeyes’ own tweet about the new sandwich is what caused Chik-fil-A, Wendy’s, and other restaurants to jump online to tout that their sandwiches were better.

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The past 12 months of marketing campaign coverage has brought my total up to 158 videos and 32 posts, and I’m excited to see what the next 12 months will bring for “What Were They Thinking?” What will be the new marketing campaigns that will cross my path? How will marketers come out of our current hot mess of a world (thanks to COVID-19) and find new and creative ways to connect with consumers?

In the words of my favorite TV president, Jed Bartlet: “What’s next?”

If you have a marketing campaign you think I should discuss — whether it’s your own or that of a peer’s — drop me a line at mward@napco.com. I’m especially interested in campaigns that feature innovative print marketing as part of the overall omnichannel marketing strategy!

WWTT? Burger King’s Moldy Whopper Ad Has People Talking … But Are They Buying?

Seeing mold on a food item usually elicits a response of disgust, followed by tossing said item as far away from you. But for Burger King, the home of the Whopper, mold is seen as a sign of beauty — of no artificial preservatives. Or at least that’s what the fast food chain’s latest moldy Whopper ad is telling us.

Seeing mold on a food item usually elicits a response of disgust, followed by tossing said item as far away from you (usually in the trash). But for Burger King, the home of the Whopper, mold is seen as a sign of beauty — and more importantly — of no artificial preservatives. Or at least that’s what the fast food chain’s latest moldy Whopper ad is telling us.

While I wouldn’t consider this imagery particularly shocking — if you’ve left something long enough in the refrigerator, you know exactly how funky and moldy food can become — putting your product front and center and letting it rot in front of a time-lapse camera is definitely not the norm for any marketer in the food business.

Burger King Moldy Whopper No Artifical Preservatives
The campaign ran in print, social media, and out-of-home (OOH), like on this transit shelter. Credit: Burger King

But Burger King doesn’t tend to play by the rules of other fast food marketers. Sure, it might not be collaborating with Crocs, but this is the brand that took the 2019 Cannes Lion Festival by storm with its Whopper Detour campaign.

According to a press release about the moldy Whopper, Fernando Machado,  Global CMO for Restaurant Brands International (Burger King’s parent company) stated:

“At Burger King restaurants, we believe that real food tastes better. That’s why we are working hard to remove preservatives, colors and flavors from artificial sources from the food we serve in all countries around the world.”

However, none of this matters if customers are turned off by the idea of a moldy Whopper, no matter what point it’s trying to make. Jonathan Maze of Restaurant Business Online took to Twitter to ask people what they thought of the campaign:

https://twitter.com/thatbilloakley/status/1230167233730506752?

For an audience who understands what artificial preservatives do (and how they’re not necessarily a good thing), I think this campaign will resonate with them. Sure, it’s not pretty, but it makes a very clear point. However, is this audience the normal Burger King audience? Or, is it an attempt to grow a new audience.

Burger King moldy burger OOH advertisement shows the lack of artificial preservatives
Credit: Burger King

Many consumers opt for fast food because it’s exactly that: It’s FAST. They enjoy the flavors and have favorite menu items, and even appreciate the affordability when compared to other dining options. But do they know enough about what artificial preservatives are … and more importantly, do they care?

According to AdWeek, approximately 50,000 people have taken to social media to share their disgust over the moldy burger. Mentions have soared by more than 500%, and the hashtag #MoldyWhopper has received more than 21 million impressions. So people might not like it, but they’re definitely talking about it.

Marketers, what do you think? Leave me a comment below, and have a great weekend!

WWTT? Burger King’s ‘Real Meal’ Campaign Falls Flat

This week, the home of the Whopper debuted a new line of “Real Meals” with the tagline that “No One Is Happy All the Time.” Which, of course, got the attention of media outlets, with many claiming the campaign is an attempt to troll McDonald’s and its Happy Meals. But there’s a bit more to this campaign.

This week, the home of the Whopper debuted a new line of Real Meals with the tagline that “No One Is Happy All the Time.” Which, of course, got the attention of media outlets, with many claiming the Real Meal campaign is an attempt to troll McDonald’s and Happy Meals. But there’s a bit more to this campaign, and in my opinion, not all of it falls neatly into place, so let’s take a look, shall we?

May is Mental Health Awareness month, and according to a press release from Burger King, the fast food chain has partnered with Mental Health America (MHA) as it debuts the “Real Meals.” President and CEO Paul Gionfriddo of MHA is quoted on that org’s site:

“MHA is very pleased to partner with Burger King. While not everyone would think about pairing fast food and mental health, MHA believes in elevating the conversation in all communities in order to address mental illness Before Stage 4. By using its internationally known reputation to discuss the importance of mental health, Burger King is bringing much-needed awareness to this important and critical discussion — and letting its customers know that is OK to not be OK.”

Yes, it is OK to not be OK … but is Burger King really using its reputation to start and sustain a conversation about mental health? First, this partnership does not mention anything about BK making donations toward mental health advocacy groups or nonprofits. Or, really, doing anything beyond the specialty packaging, video, and social posting. Exposure of an issue is great and all, but funds to help programs to directly support those who deal with the effects of mental health issues day in and day out have a bigger effect, I’d say.

WWTT? Burger King's 'Real Meal' Campaign Falls Flat
Credit: Burger King

Or, as Eater so aptly put it: “Feed your sadness or anger with a Whopper, won’t you? Lexapro can wait.”

The Real Meal options are essentially all the same: a Whopper, fries, and a drink, but they come in one of five boxes, each with a different mood or feeling: Pissed, Yaaas, DGAF, Salty and Blue. Or, translated a little bit closer to terms used when discussing mental health and feelings: angry, elated/happy, indifferent (and/or really angry?), angry/agitated/annoyed, and sad/depressed. However, the Real Meals will only be available in five specific restaurants in five cities (that’s what all the fine print is in the image above).

Again, how does this actually raise awareness about mental health?

According to AdAge, the campaign was created by MullenLowe U.S., and includes the following music video-style short film to support the campaign, which will be aired across social media nationally. The video seems to be the bigger part of the campaign with ties to elevating the issues surrounding mental health, and overall the message is decent … until it turns into a commercial to sell you a burger (that is, if you live near one of the five places where you can buy one).

https://youtu.be/PjxRUEA0Tdo

So we have a campaign running nationally for an existing product that comes specially packaged in a container marked with a “feeling,” but available at only five specific locations across the country … SMH.

The Takeout hits the nail on the head pretty well I think:

“… isn’t this just commercializing emotional vulnerability? Brands Are Not Your Friends™, so how good should I feel about BK telling me it’s okay to be furious or depressed or whatever else? Aren’t they just using my mess to sell fries?”

As for the Real Meals taking on or trolling Happy Meals … they really aren’t. One is directed at children — or at least parents — and the other is, in my opinion, a virtue-signalling attempt to sell a Whopper and targeted at adults, and probably teens — but not children.

If Burger King really wanted to make strides toward elevating the issue of mental health, they would do more than put a combo meal in a box with a cute phrase printed on it. Packaging isn’t going to help anyone in regard to supporting and treating mental illness. Nor do I think it’s a fastfood chain’s job to do so! Burger King’s job is to sell burgers … but if they’re going to act as if they’re using their platform to elevate an issue, then mental health awareness needs to be truly elevated and supported. Not turned into a marketing campaign to sell a few more burgers.

And here’s how some people on Twitter feel about the #FeelYourWay hashtag and Real Meals:

Marketers, what do you think? Is Burger King stepping up and bringing mental health issues to the forefront of the minds of its customers … or making a buck off selling Whoppers to, well, anyone in general (just with some cute packaging in this case). Let me know in the comments below!

‘Unboxing’ Is So Hot Right Now

Fun fact: Unboxing, or unboxing videos to be more clear, is nothing new. I figured phenomenon was a couple of years old, but nope, I was wrong. When googling “trend of unboxing videos” I came across this article, “Unboxing Videos: The Latest Internet Trend That I’m Behind On.” Guess what the publication date is.

What's in the Box
Wow … this post got dark REAL quick.

Fun fact: Unboxing, or unboxing videos to be more clear, is nothing new. I figured the phenomenon was a couple of years old, but nope, I was wrong.

When googling “trend of unboxing videos” I came across this article, “Unboxing Videos: The Latest Internet Trend That I’m Behind On” from Information Week, dated Dec. 12, 2006.

You read that right … 2006. People have been filming themselves unboxing products for a decade, and it’s not getting old. Originally started with the filming of opening packages of hot new tech and gadgets (such as a PS3 unboxing video that gained over 71,000 views between Nov. 11, 2006 and Dec. 7,  2006), it still goes strong in the tech community.

Seriously, check out the awesome UNBOXED video series from fellow editor/vlogger Rob Stott, including the one below that gets major Sass Marketing points for featuring a little “Say Anything.”

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And beyond unboxing hot new tech, the trend has expanded to include everything from makeup subscription boxes to children’s toys.

Above is the very typical Birchbox vs. Ipsy-style unboxing, and below is … well … a really weird kid’s toy unboxing.

What … what did I just watch? Okay, shake it off.

From Mental Floss:

… before you dismiss this phenomenon as just another weird trend indicative of our digital obsessions, consider this: unboxing videos routinely take a few of the top 10 spots on most-viewed YouTube watchlists, among the music videos from international superstars and the latest viral prank. There’s clearly something alluring about this unwrapping-by-proxy for millions of people.

And now … now Burger King has jumped into the unboxing ring with a very special guest: Chester Cheetah:

https://youtu.be/NW6-pkE9UeM

Marketers, what does this all mean for you? Well, if you market a product that is pretty exciting and comes in potentially cool packaging (something that’s often discussed in unboxing videos), then you might want to look into finding some influencers you can partner with.

According to this article from Google, unboxing videos gained 57 percent more views in 2014 over 2013, and uploads increased 50 percent.

More importantly, a larger number of unboxing viewers use the videos to make product-buying decisions. So, while you don’t need to get hooked up with a talking cheetah, you definitely don’t want to ignore this trend which has some serious legs to it.