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Why Burger King Is Advertising a Moldy Whopper

Burger King is advertising a moldy Whopper, and it has the internet stirring. When you think of fast-food ads, you think of almost too-perfect looking burgers with juicy, mouthwatering beef and crisp salad leaves, delicately arranged in layers.

The last thing that comes to mind is a moldy, disgusting burger that’s more likely to put you off fast food than encourage you to head to your nearest drive-thru.

Yet, that’s exactly what Burger King is doing with their latest global ad campaign.

If you can stomach watching their latest ad, you’re taken through a 34-day accelerated timeline of a Whopper as it sits on a pedestal.

By the end of Burger King’s 45-second clip, there sits a moldy, fluffy, purple and blue, sagging burger that barely resembles a Whopper.

To make matters worse, the visuals are accompanied by What a Difference a Day Makes, originally sung by Dinah Washington. A beautiful song that will never hold the same meaning to me now.

So, clearly this is a shock tactic being put out by Burger King’s marketing team, but why?

How are they promoting the Whopper, and their brand, by showing in high-resolution, graphic detail, how their food attracts microscopic fungi and molds when left out?

While the state of the Whopper shocks most by the end of the video, there is a subtle message.

The Message Behind Advertising a Moldy Whopper

The shock factor of showing one of their burgers in an advanced state of decomposition and being covered with mold spores delivers a message. And possibly to take a jab at other fast-food restaurants.

Burger King has pledged to drop all artificial preservatives in their Whopper by the end of the year. They’ve already removed them from their menu in some parts of the world, Scandinavia being among the included countries.

It’s the preservatives they used to use – which other fast-food chains still use – that get the blame for some adverse effects in consumers.

Anyone who watched the 2004 documentary Super Size Me will remember how the host, Morgan Spurlock, placed a McDonald’s burger in a glass jar for weeks, with it hardly degrading.

12 Year Old McDonald's Burger

Or, you can Google pictures of the last cheeseburger that came off the grill before the last McDonald’s in Iceland closed its doors. It is more than 10 years old this year and doesn’t look too dissimilar to how it did when it was “fresh.”

While it’s hard for Burger King to describe this in a 45-second video, the shock factor has stimulated several discussions that have brought this to light.

Fernando Machado, CMO for Restaurant Brands International, the parent company of Burger King, said, “At Burger King, 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.”

Advertising a moldy burger illicits a response and gets people thinking. The more we look into how they’ve gone about pushing this message out, the more impressed and the less disgusted we are about the video.

The Power of Viral Marketing

Viral marketing isn’t a new concept. It’s been around in some form for as long as marketing has existed. It’s just that it’s a form of marketing that one must handle carefully because it’s just as prone to backfiring or falling flat as it is of succeeding. When a video, image, or piece of content goes “viral,” it means thousands of users share it at a rapid rate.

This is the ideal reaction to a marketing campaign from the advertiser’s point of view because it means their ads are getting shares and views without additional ad spend on their behalf.

It’s hard to pinpoint what and how to make an ad go viral. Otherwise, marketing teams would be able to churn out viral ads over and over.

However, some key elements of viral messaging includes:

  • Resonating with a broad audience or hitting on a particular pain point
  • Focusing on something timely that already has a lot of momentum
  • Producing something creative with a strong visual presence
  • Creating something with emotional appeal

Burger King’s strategy was to hit on one or more of these elements to gain notoriety with their moldy burger campaign.

Discussions around eating healthy and being aware of what manufacturers are putting in the foods we consume have never been hotter than they are right now.

The timing of this ad campaign is exceptional. Plus, Burger King has the well-publicized examples from McDonald’s burgers that aren’t degrading due to the amount preservatives in their food. Advertising a moldy whopper gets people thinking of the contrast between fresh and scientifically made foods. 

Sure, they’re walking a thin line showing a moldy Whopper. But it’s precisely this kind of powerful imagery that resonates with viewers, gets people talking, and carries an underlying message about the foods and ingredients we’re eating.

Will This Increase Sales of the Whopper?

It’s hard to say if it will increase sales, but it’s not going to do Burger King any harm.

Judging by the reaction so far and looking at the viewing numbers for their videos and images online, they’ve hit on a nerve and creating a viral marketing campaign.

It’s going to be interesting to see if other fast-food chains follow suit and start removing additives from the items on their menus. And more so, how they approach advertising and marketing the fact that they’re doing so.

The trend for healthier foods and manufacturers to be more transparent about the additives, preservatives, and other unnatural ingredients they add to the foods we eat isn’t going to slow down any time soon.

Burger King hit on a timely and relevant topic. Dare we say they also did it in a wonderfully artistic way?

That Whopper looks a lot more appealing than it did the first time we saw the video, we like the direction that they’re going in. If you want your own version of advertising a moldy Whopper, or to learn more about viral ads, SEO, and social media marketing for your brand, learn how Elevare can help. 

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