The new Burger King looks more like Five Guys

Driven Thru

Burger King bowing to Five Guys?

Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Chris Nixon via Compfight

Fast food is a tough category. While McDonalds obviously has the secret sauce to the number one spot, the actions of number two through five are like watching a three ring circus. Only one can be something for everyone, everyone else, needs to figure out how to be the anti-something for everyone and pick their niche.

Chipotle is the envy of the industry- with a ridiculously low ad budget (they actually dropped from $7.5 million in measured media in 2010 to $5.8 in 2011 according to Ad Age Mar 12, 2012, “Chipotle aims to buck fast-food convention- while it still can“) and a menu that doesn’t change much and a business model that doesn’t rely on “Sales” or price off promotions. Chipotle has a value proposition: a big portion of fresh locally sourced food, that’s made to order in front of you. Subway uses part of the same model and is the number two fast feeder: A custom made sandwich at a reasonable price.

Lately, Burger King has ditched one of the hottest agencies in the country, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, cut ties with CMO Russ Klein (who has bounced back at Arby’s) and gone back on the mission to out-McDonald’s McDonalds:

The restaurant’s menu will include a record 10 new items, among them, made-to-order smoothies and three new salads. Burger King also will increase its marketing efforts, featuring soccer player David Beckham, talk show host Jay Leno, actress Salma Hayek and singer Mary J. Blige in upcoming commercials. The chain plans to send out 40 food trucks across the country to hand out food at events and set up sampling inside some Burger King locations.

The chain is reportedly attempting to broaden its menu with healthier and more snack alternatives in an effort to appeal to mothers, families and Baby Boomers. Burger King and its franchisees will spend an estimated $750 million to revamp stores over the next 12 months.

via Burger King to Roll Out 40 Food Trucks Nationwide | Mobile Cuisine – Food Trucks, Carts & Street Eating.

Burger King built their business on the Whopper- a burger that used to be bigger and tastier than a Big Mac. The company hit pay dirt when they challenged market leader McDonalds with “Have it your way” as a way to differentiate their offering as made to order and fresh- utilizing “Flame broiling” instead of frying- positioning them as the burger kings- in the same way you make a great burger in your back yard. Burger King appealed to some of the same triggers that work for Chipotle and Subway- their food was made more the way you make it at home. Home cooking beats the factory- that was a message and positioning that resonated.

To be the Burger King, all they had to do was make the best burger our there. Now, they are placing bets on salads, frappes, wraps and famous faces. Compare that to upstart chain, Five Guys. The whole business is focused on making burgers and fries. When you order- the cashier calls back the number of patties that need to be on the grill- nothing else. Take out the frying surface and replace it with open flame grilling and they would be the penultimate burger kings.The oversize portions of freshly cut fries as well as the fresh meat burgers make them the new Burger Kings. Advertising is mostly accomplished by word of mouth and the reviews posted around the store remind you that this is the burger joint of old reincarnated. Note- they don’t have a dollar menu, don’t do couponing, no TV ads either. Like the Chipotle model, the entire kitchen and process is on display.

My visit yesterday to Burger King to check out the “new changes” confirmed that BK isn’t the Burger King anymore- despite having cast aluminum burger flippers for door pulls, once I got into the line and watched the digital menu screens show me salads getting the sexy dressing pour and sundaes getting drizzled with chocolate sauce – I almost forgot I was in a burger place. The menu is schizophrenic with “stackers” for a buck- and the next step up is a burger starting at $3+. To confuse matters there are a ton of chicken offerings, salads and who knows what else. No one told me it would be at least three minutes for the “Chicken snack wrap” until after I ordered and the confusion of trying to speed things up by switching, then not switching my chicken for a second stacker reminded me of a three ring circus.

The moral of the story is to be successful, a brand has to know who they are and stick to it. That’s why the new Burger King is obviously Five Guys.

Why isn’t there customer service 2.0?

For every question I get about the wonders of “web 2.0” it’s rare that we hear clients ask “what can I do to make my customer happier?” Will a mobile version of your website make them feel better about the washing machine they just bought? No.

It comes down to customer service- and understanding that the best marketing is outstanding customer service- “marketing as a service.”

Amazon got it when an ad agency suggested they spend at least $30 million a year on ads- and instead they decided to give their customers free shipping (of course, once they started into their own products like the Kindle- they had to start advertising).

One has to credit Crispin Porter + Bogusky for taking on Domino’s Pizza- and not only telling them that the quality of their pizza is the problem (they probably told VW that being below average in the JD Power car quality charts wasn’t helping sales too) but getting the company to pay money to tell customers that their pizza did suck, but it’s better now:

You can spend all the money on marketing you want- just remember, if your product or service is less than stellar- good advertising will only kill your product sooner.

That’s the beauty of web 2.0, not, when you screw up, someone will tell a lot of people- either on your site, where you can respond and try to fix it- or on anyone of millions of other sites, including their own- where you may or may not be able to respond. If you haven’t set up Google Alerts on every product name, company name, key people in your business- you may be finding out the hard way when things are going wrong.

If there is one place we need customer service 2.0 it’s government. Unfortunately, most politicians and bureaucrats think they are immune from finger pointing (although they’re all aces at it). The rest of the nation already understands the value of open, honest communication, unfortunately we’re still doing government with rules from long before the information age.

If you want an in your face take on customer service, I give you Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library speaking at SXSW (parental advisory for naughty words):

As a parting thought- thanks to Gary- it also doesn’t hurt for your company to have a personality either. Try reading “Personality not included” by Rohit Bhargava- it’ll wake you up to what kind of service is possible with personality.

There is no “App for that” when it comes to customer service- it all comes from the choices leadership makes. Advertising or free shipping? Quality product or lower pricing? A warranty that customers can believe in, or a legal trap to play gotcha?

Customer service should be first on everyone’s mind, everyday, because there is an app to tell the world when you screw up- you’re looking at it now. Comment below at will.

Ads you want to watch, and ads you don’t (but do anyway).

We live in an attention society. Everybody wants it, few get it, and all of us give it.

Advertising legend Howard Luck Gossage said “People don’t read ads, they read what interests them and sometimes it’s an ad.”

In today’s marketplace, people watch and share the outrageous. The question is, is it outrageous in a way that extends your brand message? Is it something that helps you make your point about why brand X is better than brand Y?

Evian, a company that sells the most commoditized product in the world- water, gives us an entertaining ditty with babies roller skating to the track of “Rappers Delight”- anyone 40 and older- their core market, remembers this song, and thinks babies are cute. This ad will get a lot of positive spread.

Then, there is an ad, probably done by the bad boys of advertising, Crispin Porter + Bogusky for Internet Explorer 8 and it’s private browsing feature. You’ll watch this- go, eehhwwwwww- and then tell 10 friends. O.M.G.I.G.P. or “Oh, my god, I’m gonna puke”

If given the choice, which would you prefer represented your brand? And, if trends continue, the puking woman is outscoring the babies in views on YouTube by a landslide, so think carefully.

Why Crispin Porter + Bogusky is the reigning king of Hoopla (advertising)

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is proving why they are at the top of almost every agency search consultants list. Burger King continues to have same store growth after years of failed campaigns, and changing agencies. VW was almost ready to give up on the US market, again, but have at least started to rebound sales. But what started out as an embarrassingly bad intro for Microsoft with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld, and then into an “I’m a PC” has now hit pay dirt by not even talking about Microsoft’s products, but by doing a comparison between PC hardware and Apple hardware.

“Laptop Hunters” is credited with changing perception of brand value, according to a BrandIndex study:

Based on daily interviews of 5,000 people, BrandIndex found the age group gave Apple its highest rating in late winter, when it notched a value score of 70 on a scale of -100 to 100 (a score of zero means that people are giving equal amounts of positive and negative feedback about a brand). But its score began to fall shortly after and, despite brief rallies, hovers around 12.4 today.

Microsoft, on the other hand, has risen from near zero in early February to a value-perception score of 46.2.

via In Mac vs. PC Battle, Microsoft Winning in Value Perception – Advertising Age – Digital.

Hefty gains in a short time, although Apple hasn’t sat idly by:

But, while this battle royal can wage for years, the real reason that Crispin Porter + Bogusky keeps winning for their clients is that they get the fundamentals right.

They know that advertising is supposed to surprise and delight, not inform and sell. They take great pains to make sure that you might actually want to talk about the ads they do around the water cooler at work the next day.

Today, they pulled one out of the hat for me. I own a copy of “Hoopla” which is their monograph. For the most part, it’s heinously designed making it almost impossible to read, but, inside the back cover- I discovered (via a tweet by Alex Bogusky) there is a secret second book:

This guy @DomineConcept discovered the hidden book that was bound inside the back cover of our book Hoopla » link to Dominé Concept | Hooplanetics and a ripped up HOOPLA book….

Which led me to carefully operate on my $50 copy:

A secret book awaits inside the back cover

A secret book awaits inside the back cover

I’ve also been watching the CP+B Ebay auction of their interns time:

ANNOUNCING THE CP+B INTERN AUCTION

In the past, our interns have created work for companies like Burger King, Volkswagen, Guitar Hero and Microsoft. And now they can do the same for you. Bidding starts at $1 for three months of service with all proceeds going to the hardest working people we know – the CP+B interns themselves. So bid early and often, and world-class advertising can be yours for a fraction of the going rate.

via Crispin Porter + Bogusky Intern Auction: Summer 2009 – eBay (item 270392380113 end time May-27-09 10:57:37 PDT).

Which is currently going for $5,400.

It’s innovative, it’s interesting and it’s not strictly advertising. It’s a conscious effort to manipulate and shape contemporary culture, cajoling and dancing outside the boundaries of conventional advertising wisdom. Everything can be an ad if you make it interesting enough.

And that’s why they are winning awards, accounts and owning the crown of the Hoopla kings.

Comparison advertising: making a comeback?

Comparison advertising. It’s been around for a long time. In days of old, it was the way to go. Choosy Mom’s choose Jif, the Pepsi Challenge, We’re number 2, so we try harder, the demos showing how Bounty was the “quicker picker upper.”

During the boom years, comparison advertising became passe among market leaders- why give credit to your competition.

Typically, it was a way to leverage a smaller brand against the leader.

Audi challenges BMW and loses

Audi challenges BMW and loses

It’s a dangerous proposition. Look at the smackdown Audi gets from BMW in their billboards in Santa Monica on the right. Those who don’t study their craft are doomed to get hit twice. Honda fired Chiat/Day from their motorcycle account. Their new agency came up with “Follow the leader” to which Chiat/Day came back- now working for Yamaha with “Don’t follow anyone.”

When the economy goes bad- all bets are off. It’s time to go into the cage for a brand on brand death match.

While scrapping for every dollar might not be an option as consumers cut back, the damage it can do to a brand is real. Do you really want to be the cheapest, lowest price product when the money starts flowing again.

Chuck Porter once said at the Cincinnati Ad Club “Anyone can do a better price and product ad, all they have to do is have a lower price” so it sort of shocks me when Crispin Porter + Bogusky starts running ads for Microsoft based on price.

Where “Laptop hunters” Lisa and Jackson go to buy a laptop for under $1,500 and do a comparison between Apple and a PC.

After the drilling Apple has given Microsoft with their “Get a Mac” campaign, which has won an Effie,  and has been credited for doubling market share, Apple had to see it coming.

But, this is the kind of attention Microsoft wanted when they hired the best ad agency in the country to try to breath life back into their bankrupt Windows/Vista brand.

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is again proving that edgy, strategic advertising can get people talking about a brand differently, quickly, by pushing buttons.

They did it for anti-smoking with Truth, Mini with “Lets Motor”, the creepy King and subservient chicken for Burger King, un-pimp your auto for VW and now MSFT is getting the treatment.

[The reality is: both Apple and Microsoft will be in trouble if some 17 year old does for Linux what Blake Ross did for the Mozilla code base to create Firefox.]

Realize that Microsoft isn’t even comparing their product to Apple in the ads- they are comparing their partners hardware- people aren’t validating Microsoft in the buying ads- but Sony, HP, Dell etc.

How many companies would spend their marketing dollars on promoting their marketing partners?

When times get tough, consumers do spend more time evaluating major purchases. However, it’s not price that they look at as much as value. Giving consumers reason to talk about your brand value is only a good idea if it is really there. Look at the response to a Business Week story on the subject of the Microsoft challenge- compared to a holy war.

Maybe the best advice still comes from that old Chiat/Day ad: “Don’t follow anyone” and don’t compare. Leadership has its privileges.

Alex Bogusky and bicycles for your mind…. or to ride b cycles for free

Alex Bogusky spoke at SXSW this year about his involvement in a free bicycle project in Bolder. The podcast audio is available here: Can an ad agency change the world with free bicycles

It’s a long listen, and without the slides- if you aren’t a bit familiar with the B Cycle project, the later part will get a little slow.

And while the B Cycle is sexy and intriguing- the beginning of the podcast has some insight that hint at what makes Crispin Porter + Bogusky the hot agency: hint, it’s not about being an agency.

Alex claims to hate advertising and that he reads AdBusters– and not Ad Age. They don’t hire people for jobs, they hire smart people and let them figure out what to do- he calls CP+B a “Holding company for smart people.”

They don’t worry about deliverables- but more about “Business momentum”- and if you understand that business runs on cash flow- the idea of momentum makes perfect sense. Now that the agency numbers 900 people and has 1.5B in billings, things are a lot different from when he worked at what he considered the “third best agency in Miami” and was employee number 16.

For one thing, they no longer feel limited to doing “advertising” and claims that anything good that he’s been a part of, comes from sticking his nose where they don’t belong. This includes doing things like telling Mini that putting mileage restrictions on the sub-compact, while encouraging people to “Let’s Motor” didn’t make sense. This is marketing thinking, practiced at the highest level.

Just as accountants originally were part of assessing and evaluating business processes for profitability- instead of just how to account for taxes(and how to avoid them)- advertising is just one subset of the marketing process- not the end all and be all.

If your agency isn’t giving you insight on the complete customer connection experience, you don’t really have an agency- just an ad vendor.

In it’s early ads, Apple claimed the personal computer was the “bicycle for your mind”- and now, we have great minds rethinking bicycles. Spend some time with both the podcast- and thinking about the B Cycle concept- and how an ad agency can be a thought leader on solving the worlds problems, instead of being blamed for creating so many of them.