BrandSniper: Whopper Virgins

Here we go again: More big marketing without a big idea.

By now you’ve probably seen the TV ads for the Whopper Virgins concept. The premise: In a taste test with indigenous people from the most remote corners of the globe – people with no prior knowledge of the existence of the fast-food giants – who wins, Burger King or McDonald’s?

The TV spots attempt to drive visits to the WhopperVirgins.com website. Once there, you’ll find copy like this:

“To find out about America’s favorite burger, we had to leave America.”

Cue Ron Burgundy: “That doesn’t make sense.”

Think about it: Are you likely to be convinced to switch your burger preference based on the palate of a Thai villager who has never had a burger before? I didn’t think so. But Burger King apparently thinks so. Or they don’t think so at all, and they’re looking for PR value as opposed to real behavioral change.

WhopperVirgins.com also offers this nugget: “See what people think, when no one has told them what to think.” And there’s a countdown clock: “The world’s purest taste test results in X days…”

Note the circular logic. Burger King suggests that we consumers have been told “what to think,” no doubt by advertising. But if we could eliminate those advertising-impregnated preconceived notions, we would have “purity.” And how does Burger King make this case? With advertising.

It’s an interesting position for one of the world’s largest advertisers to take. And by “interesting position,” I mean “slippery slope.” Burger King, you are not a victim of the perceptions that advertising creates, you are a benefactor. Attempting to cast yourself as anything but is wildly disingenuous.

Whopper Virgins is not an inexpensive campaign, once you factor in the costs of traveling to all those remote areas with a film crew in tow. Yep, the campaign also includes a documentary, which will soon “reveal” the results of the taste test. (Gee, I wonder who wins? The suspense!)

This is stunt marketing gone mad. The intent is to create buzz, and nothing more. But creating buzz is very different from creating behavioral change. Let Burger King burn its money however it wishes – you should hold your own branding to a higher standard.

About Matthew Fenton: Matthew helps challenger brands to focus, grow and win.  Since founding his consultancy, Three Deuce Branding, in 1997, he’s helped hundreds of brands to achieve “brand clarity.”  His consulting services and speaking engagements help brands to focus on what matters through positioning, strategy and ideation.  Contact Matthew here.  He calls Chicago home.

Copyright 2008 – Matthew Fenton.  All Rights Reserved.  You may reprint this article with the original, unedited text intact, including the About Matthew Fenton section.

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