The Burger Wars Spill Over to Search


A few days ago the Internet was in an uproar over Burger King’s latest digital campaign, one that featured a BK employee lamenting on how he doesn’t have enough time in a 15 second ad to aptly describe the Whopper, so he results to hijacking Google connected device owners by announcing “Okay Google…what is a Whopper burger?”

Smooth Burger King. Real smooth.

If you did have Google Home installed and you had your speakers up, you would have been redirected to BK’s Wikipedia page, where Burger King edited the Wiki page with oodles of marketing speak in describing the Whopper.

But the Interweb can be an unforgiving place.

Because it can, the Whopper definition had been changed by vengeful Wiki users to insert “cyanide” as an ingredient in one version. Another user later changed the definition to say the Whopper is “the worst hamburger product” sold by the chain.

As of the time of this published, the BK spot has 25,831 likes and 31,559 dislikes.

A  Golden Campaign

In contrast, McDonald’s took a much less invasive approach to leveraging search as a central part of their most recent campaign. Touting their relationship with Coca-Cola, celebrity spokeswoman Mindy Kaling, in Golden Arch’s yellow dress on a red backdrop,   asks her audience to perform a Google search for “that place where Coca-Cola tastes so good”.

Less than 10 days removed from Pepsi pulling their Kardashian commercial, Coca-Cola has to be giddy with the timing of this latest ad. Related search terms to the McDonald’s Coca-Cola ad seem to confirm their excitement. Reviewing Google trends, it’s evident that Micky D’s and Coke are rising in interest:

Screenshot 2017-04-16 23.13.21

Two Approaches: Who’s Right?

In both scenarios, the two titans of the fast food industry could tout their successes through their search-related digital marketing campaigns. As a brand marketer, I happen to skew towards the McDonald’s ad for one simple reason: relevance.

Disruption, as displayed in the BK commercial, can trigger an uncontrollable response by the audience they’re marketing to which leads to questions related to just how relevant their ad was with their consumers. Journalist Ruairí Kavanagh sums it up succinctly:

The meaning of real disruption is seen when a brand proposes a solution that addresses a huge gap between people’s needs and what is currently available. The key for any brand is maintain relevance, so that your brand is not contributing to this misalignment.

If I could peek into the client input brief, I’m guessing the word “disrupt” was used in one form or another. The result of the campaign, however, was less about disrupt as it was to distract.

Conversely, McDonald’s smartly and pervasively integrated their brand into boosting SEO around one of their strongest corporate partners while still touting their $1.00/any size promotion.

I spoke to Ryan Jones, a friend, an authority on SEO and former colleague of mine related to the two campaigns for his thoughts. “Regarding McDonald’s, on one hand, telling somebody to Google something is more likely to get a response than telling them to go to a website,” he said. “It probably helps with both validation and recall too.”

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