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Company Case Notes

Burger King: Promoting a Food Fight


In early 2004, Burger King’s CEO Brad Blum abruptly fired its advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, and hired Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky in an attempt to revive BK’s slumping sales. BK’s move marked the fifth time in four years that it had moved its account. CP+B had established a reputation for developing “out-of-the box” promotional campaigns that produced results.

Instead of recommending some new, sexy idea, CP+B suggested BK return to a tagline developed in 1974—“Have It Your Way.” CP+B believed it could make the message relevant to customers in 2004. Uncharacteristically, CP+B began the new campaign with television commercials and a package of promotions that included everything from in-store promotions to messages on cups.

In the years to follow, CP+B ran various campaigns for Burger King that resulted in positive results. These have included techniques ranging from edgy TV ads to viral web promotions. While Burger King’s franchisees were for years unhappy with the corporation due to sinking sales, sales are once again on the rise and franchisees are singing a different tune.

Discussion Questions

1. What are Burger King’s communication objectives for its target audience?

Students will suggest that BK can consider almost anyone as being in its target market. Everyone from young children to senior citizens are potential customers for fast-food chains. However, the instructor should help students see that some customers are core customers. The firm depends on them to drive its business. In the fast-food business, generally young males between 18 and 35 are seen as the “heavy users” the chains want to attract.

The case begins by noting that BK had just fired Y&R for its failed campaign that featured the tagline “The Fire’s Ready” and focused on the broiled versus fried cooking process. Students will note that this approach focused on a product feature rather than a benefit. There is an implied benefit and taste, but it is on...

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