Friday, October 9, 2009

What Are They Smoking At Burger King?

Burger King, a venerable burger joint (if a chain with 12,000 outlets can be called that) is revamping its restaurants to give them "an upmarket feel". Huh? The thinking must go something like this: "We hate to be competing with McD and Wendy's... Let's go upscale and incur a cost disadvantage that will price us out of this market and go compete with Ruby Tuesday and Applebee's (perception-wise), and with Pizza Hut and Domino's (value-wise)."

Now, in my humble opinion, BK has the best french fries of all burger chains, and their burgers are pretty damn good. They had a lot going for them, not least brand equity - recall a famous Pulp Fiction dialogue? However, whoever is mapping their corporate strategy is smoking something really, really good. Many companies suffer an identity crisis at some point, and try to reposition themselves. There are good ways to do it. There are bad ways to do it. And then (to quote Al Gore) there is that little known third category that includes Burger King - the phrase "unmitigated disaster" comes to mind.

Let's try to see some of their advertising efforts:

This? Really? They share a golden shower?
This? Really?? The last time I wanted to wake up with a man in my bed was... I'll get back to you on this one, but do not hold your breath.
This? "So special, people may think you're special?" Are we positioning a friggin' BK burger as "what-I-do-not-eat-to-avoid-getting-assaulted-by-psychotic-bitches"?
This? Wow, edgy! Simon & Garfunkel! Mostly Garfunkel, of course. Was Bob Dylan not available?
This? Oh no, this is just too rich... "I like square butts and I cannot lie?" "Phone book implants?" "A butt with sharp right angles?" "He's so spongy?" "Shake that cubicle butt?" "Bob got it goin' on, been known to rock him a thong???!!!" I am.... bemused.
This? And my inner cowboy has what exactly in common with women with mustaches?
This? Maybe I don't?
This? Midgets and "jugs"? Classy!!!
This? There was something there, right up to the "EAT THIS MEAT" part... Yeah, and the 0:37 part where you need frame-by-frame replay to make sure that there was no hand-to-crotch action going on. And the "till my innie turns into an outie" part. And the "I need to stuff a big burger beef jalapeno good thing down" part.
This? The peep-show patron special. When you are so dumb you have not discovered the internet for your porn needs... you may just need a BK burger too. The combination of a sultry male voice and "a very generous king"... touche!
This? Right!!! Piss off one half of your potential customers with a sexist ad...
This? The nipple pinch? "They took my nipples?" I feel so... Well, I know there is a word out there for what I feel, and I'll find it one day. Suffice it to know, it's not a kind word.

Really, Burger King, what is your target customer base again? Maybe, just maybe, even the imperfect financial markets smelled a real stinker (sinker?) here.

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