We heard that: The King

Youthography takes a look at Burger King's now-iconic mascot and campaigns, and its effectiveness in stirring up fast food cravings in young people.

Hello again! This is Youthography’s series of (kinda) monthly mini-reports ‘from the front’ of the media and communications battle for the hearts, minds and wallets of Canada’s younger citizen-consumers. Herein, Youthography will prompt its online ‘we heard that’ community of youth and young adults to hit us back with opinion on products, campaigns and policies aimed squarely at their demographic. For this instalment we take a look at Burger King.

Over the years Burger King has played the loyal role of number two in the fast food world. The inability to reach the golden arches, in all its magnitude and glory, has set up the King as a classic example of a challenger brand. This poised position has opened up the door of advertising opportunities for BK, allowing the brand to be experimental, intentionally unorthodox and perhaps sometimes…just plain out of line. The creative allowances that have been given to this long-standing number two brand is part and parcel of the reason we all love to see what the King will do next in all his crazy antics.

It’s no surprise that BK’s advertising is deliberately eccentric and thus directly strives to reach a youth focused demographic — that much is obvious to any viewer of Burger King ads. The King has become as iconic to young people as the Taco Bell Chihuahua or the ‘I’m a Mac’ guy. It becomes obvious from our Youthography community that not only is BK known to employ slapstick humour, but young people have come to expect it.

‘The King is a great add to BK’s advertisement. He is an appealing character and he always seems to be ‘at your rescue.’ Also, the interaction between him and other characters in the commercial is always enough to put a smile on your face.’ – Female, 24

Humour is key for young people in making an ad or an icon memorable. Although this seems somewhat self-evident, very few brands are able to appeal to the comedic sensibilities of an ever-engaged, exposed and media immersed cohort. The ‘Whopper Freakout’ is a good example of a simple concept taken to a funny place – what happens if you take Burger King’s most memorable item off its menu? Well, humour ensues. This is just the kind of lark that consumers expect from the King and thus fits quite well with its brand personality.

From a brand perspective, tactics such as the Whopper Freakout, the Facebook De-Friender, and the Angry Whopper make sense for the King, but does it help increase the amount of burgers they flip? According to young Canadians…maybe not. Considering the transparency in marketing to the modern citizen consumer, it’s no surprise that young people take BK’s viral vids as just another piece of the cluttered media landscape, rather than something which substantially influences their purchasing choices.

‘The Burger King ads have potential to distribute yet they have done nothing in improving BK’s positioning as the best fast food chain or even improving its product appeal.’ – Male, 21

‘The King makes an appearance in the Whopper Freak Out to save the day, and the Angry Whopper ad continues the BK trend of viral, web-based advertising. Amusing and different – but they don’t make me crave a BK burger.’ – Female, 19

By and large, Burger King’s advertising helps to strengthen its position in the minds of youth people – it’s a brand and a product that is certainly targeted and tailored to them, and our Youthography community see this clearly. BK has taken this a step further by forging the brand to become iconic in its own sense (with community members even reporting dressing up as the King as a popular Halloween costume). Increasingly savvy young consumers enjoy Burger King’s tactics but see them for what they are, exactly that – tactics. It appears that all the quirk and humour may not necessarily lead young consumers down the purchasing path that BK desires.

But, hey, they still report overwhelmingly in our quant studies that ‘advertising has no effect on them.’

- Kanan Kothari (Manager, Research & Strategy) and Michael Adams (Manager, Research & Strategy), Youthography

Youthography is North America’s leading full-service youth insights and planning firm. Any enquiries, suggestions or irate missives can be directed to mike@youthography.com. Youthography is blogging at WeLoveThat.ca.