When Burger King unveiled its latest ad – featuring a totally un-enticing mouldy Whopper – it got us thinking about just how ‘extreme’ you can dare to be with your marketing… and we guess it’s way more than you’d think.

It certainly gets you noticed and remembered, but it has to be ‘done’ right or it can backfire quite spectacularly!

Burger King has a history of being a little edgy – its marketing team is really switched on and quite daring – so this week we thought we’d talk you through the marketing ‘thinking’ behind an ad like this,  plus take a brief look at disruptive marketing in general.

It all starts with a scenario or issue… in this case, it’s that consumers are becoming far more conscious and selective when it comes to their food choices. Documentaries highlighting animal welfare issues and environmental impacts of the meat industry have sparked a movement towards less meat consumption, and a better awareness of what we’re fuelling our bodies with.

Artificial preservatives have long been used across the fast food industry – they’re a cheaper alternative to natural preservatives like sugar, salt and vinegar – but they do come with health risks. While fast food isn’t known for its health benefits, consumers are looking for fresher, natural ingredients and demanding greater transparency about what exactly is in their food.

Burger King shared “The Mouldy Whopper” last week; a campaign designed to highlight the fact that it doesn’t use artificial preservatives in its flagship burger.

Consider this your warning, this advert might put you off your food. We recommend you don’t watch it if you’re eating…

The ad begins with a video montage of various hands assembling the famous Whopper burger. Set to Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes”, a simple time-lapse of the mouth-watering creation decomposing over the course of 34 days ensues.

It starts innocently enough with a bit of wilting lettuce and collapsing buns, but it quickly turns white and furry, and by day 34 the burger is a repulsive shade of grey-blue. The kind of mould that when you open a bag of bread it smells musty and damp… not particularly appetising, no! But the point is certainly clear; Burger King uses fresh ingredients which are not stuffed full of preservatives.

This global campaign is in video and print format, and will definitely stand-out across the world of social media. Just imagine scrolling through hilarious memes, a couple of lovely holiday snaps, a Friday night post-work drinks selfie, and then BAM, a big, whopping, mouldy burger. It would stop you in your tracks, wouldn’t it?

“The Mouldy Whopper” is a bold move. Most fast food chains choose to put “zero preservatives” messaging on their packaging and consider the job done. But not Burger King! This campaign sets-out to show customers what happens when a burger contains no artificial ingredients, colours, flavours or preservatives.

Great campaigns challenge perceptions, and this does just that! Making a big marketing statement helps Burger King preserve its disruptive personality, whilst also positioning the brand at the forefront of the industry and making it the consumers’ ally.

A survey by Ace Metrix shows the ad captures attention levels 10% higher than the QSR norm when viewed entirely. It also found that the message is clear – so Burger King has already achieved two great results with this new campaign.

On the flipside, the image of a mouldy burger is probably not the best way to sell food. Whilst eye-catching, as a consumer, it is actually quite off-putting. In fact, Ace Metrix found that 26% of viewers were actively turned off to purchasing from Burger King as a result of the ad. But 74% still do want to eat there in spite of seeing their favourite burger in all its mouldy glory! And the truth is, we probably still would too… because there’s a clever bit of reverse psychology going on here.

Burger King is saying you should want your food to decompose, because if it doesn’t there’s clearly something a bit dodgy about it. Natural ingredients are so much more appealing than something that’s filled with artificial rubbish.

This ad also adds to the chain’s long-standing rivalry with McDonald’s. Many of their past campaigns have attempted to topple the golden arches from the top. One of the best is “A Whopper of a Secret”, designed to highlight the size difference between the two chain’s top products. This campaign saw Burger King hide a Big Mac behind every Whopper it photographed and used in its marketing, then eventually revealing them all side-by-side. So cheeky!

It will be interesting to see if and how McDonald’s respond to this mouldy Whopper… because you may remember that McDonald’s burgers are said not to decompose at all, so this ad takes a subtle stab at the competitor. However, if you weren’t in the know regarding McDonald’s perfectly-preserved-for-thousands-of-years* fast food, this dimension of the ad may pass you by.

Despite the fact it’s somewhat disgusting, The Mouldy Whopper does have a kind of beauty to it. Not so long ago, the food industry was under scrutiny for using inedible products like engine oil, shaving cream and even glue to make products look appetising in advertising. So it’s refreshing to see an advert that challenges the industry norm… this is disruptive marketing at its best.

Disruptive marketing is all about finding a new and better angle for your products and services.
The trick with ‘disruptive’ marketing is to connect with a value, attitude or issue which your audience (or at least a good percentage of them) is likely to agree with or which resonates with a concern they may have.

The skill comes in visualising and conveying the message in such a way as to engage your audience, rather than repulse them. This technique relies on piquing interest, creating intrigue and even being just a little ‘disturbingly’ compelling. On a lighter note: if you can add humour, then that’s even better!

Burger King is tapping into today’s desire for healthier food and lifestyles… so what matters to your customers?
And please, never think your subject is too ‘dull’ for disruptive marketing. It’s surprising how widely – and successfully – the techniques can be applied. It’s all about finding a new and better angle for your products and services… exploring where your boundaries are, pushing them a bit, and using the process to revitalise your marketing approach.

Richard Branson once said that disruptive marketing is about risk, being brave, and trusting your intuition. But the Virgin founder also added that it goes way beyond advertising, forcing a business to rethink its brand and find new routes to where it wants to be.

So, where would you like to go?
And how are you going to create your own ground-breaking marketing campaigns to get you there?
Get in touch with our team of experts… we’d love to push your boundaries!

Team Juicy is proud to make professional marketing available to all.

So, if you’re inspired by the thought of shaking-up your marketing, book a complimentary 1-2-1 with us and let’s explore how we could work together.