Thursday, December 4, 2008
HOW do you market burgers after you've tried everything else?
Taste tests in Transylvania.Next week, Burger King kicks off a major ad campaign that involves a unique twist on the tried-and-true marketing technique of taste testing. The campaign is already generating controversy.
The No 2 burger-maker in the US asked farmers in the Transylvania region of Romania, the Hmong tribe of Thailand, and other folks in far-flung places to sample its Whopper alongside McDonald's Big Mac and declare the winner.
One ad, set to begin airing on Monday, features images of villagers in traditional garb choosing the Whopper over the Big Mac. A Transylvanian woman, an Inuit tribesman from the Icelandic tundra and others point and, in their native tongues, declare their preference for Burger King's flagship product.
"We travelled to find the most isolated people in the world ... the world's purest taste test," a voiceover says.
Burger King says it was trying to find "Whopper virgins", which is also the name of its campaign. "We wanted to see how the Whopper would perform in a world that didn't have ad or marketing awareness or any sentimental attachments" to either brand, said Russ Klein, president of global marketing, strategy and innovation at Burger King Holdings.
It didn't take long for the campaign to get flame-broiled by controversy, The Australian reports.
Teaser ads, which started running this week, showing snippets from the experiment, were criticised as tasteless and potentially exploitative.
A blogger on Walletpop wrote: "What might irk people is the concept that Burger King is taking its fat-laden fast food to people who aren't used to this stuff in their diets, who aren't usually subject to our crass commercials, and who probably don't really care too much."
Alan Siegel, chairman of Siegel & Gale, a branding firm, warned that the ads "could be interpreted as the crass part of America talking to the Third World".
Burger King said it approached the project with "extreme care". Mr Klein said: "The first order of business was to be certain that we conducted the filming with respect for the cultures and people involved in the test." Lo Neng Kiatoukaysy of the non-profit Hmong American Friendship Association in Milwaukee said she and a small group of Hmong she works with viewed and liked the teaser ads. Burger King said it hired a research firm to conduct the tests, and that the Whopper "was chosen by the participants more times than not". It declined to elaborate.
Watch video below