By: Spencer Kennedy
The past few weeks have seen Burger King surging through social media with two fresh branding campaigns. Received with heavy criticism, both campaigns focus on promoting Burger King’s most recent addition to the menu – “Satisfries”, French fries boasting less fat, fewer calories, and a new crinkled look. It is no surprise that the fast-food giant would take to the likes of Facebook and Twitter as a means of rapidly dispersing news of their innovation, but the company might be shocked at the amount of backlash it received. The problem is not the product, but rather the methods of promotion that Burger King chose to employ.
In the first instance, during the last week of September, Burger King’s social media crew adopted the hashtag #WTFF to accompany photographs of the newly unveiled “Satisfries”. Intended as “what the French fry”, the hashtag was largely confused with a more established reference – “what the f****** f***”. Needless to say, even loyal customers did not find the tactic funny, let alone effective. From an advertising perspective, maybe the most concerning aspect of this mix-up is that minor research on Burger King’s part could have prevented what turned out to be more of a branding failure than a successful coming-out.
A second public relations stunt backfired just the other day when Burger King posted photos of a re-mixed logo and business name. Re-crowning itself “Fries King”, the company was hoping to continue drawing attention to its new and improved “Satisfries”. Yet, once again, customers were left thinking “what the f****** f***”. Although intentions were light-hearted, many Burger King followers viewed the wordplay as disloyalty. Not everyone was so uptight; in fact, hordes of people – including myself – were simply confused as to whether “Fries King” was the real deal. Either way, Burger King’s follow-up “Satisfries” campaign also experienced some modest turbulence.
The question remains: is all publicity good publicity? Only time will tell if either of these branding mishaps caused enough confusion to turn customers away. Something tells me no. As AdWeek’s Tim Nudd put things, negative as it may be, “[the publicity] does appear to be making people hungry”; and for the fast-food provider, that is what it all comes down to, right?