Monday, April 20, 2009

Burger King Whopper Virgins

When I first saw the Virgin Whoppers commercial on TV I was quite taken aback, but no one else in the room really seemed to care. “Tiff, you don’t get it, the point is that these people are totally unbiased, so if they like the Whopper, then it truly must be better than McDonald’s”. Well, duh, Burger King isn’t gonna show you the 500 other people that picked McDonald’s crap in their own ad. Other than the often voiced “this ad is unethical because it represents the invasion of capitalism” complaint, I have another one to throw into the fray:

This taste test was rendered ineffective by:
Using a different test audience from their target audience, and
Using/showing only a few testers

Taste is very individual and specific, just because my friend likes Burger King doesn’t mean I will. Food evolves from and within a specific context of culture, and it differs vastly from one culture to the next. The subjects that BK used were obviously very different from BK’s target audience, so I don’t know how BK expected the taste thumbs-up to translate: this Thai man liked the Whopper, which means I will too…? Or: this Romanian lady liked the Whopper, she’s never had hamburgers before, so if she likes it, then I should probably try it too. Neither one conclusion really makes sense to me. Why would one person’s judgment on taste (especially if we grew up eating completely different things and have appreciation for completely different foods) have any effect on me?

If Burger King is saying that its burger is SO good that it transcends any cultural boundaries, then it needs to make that message clearer. The Virgins commercials are not saying that Whopper crosses cultural barriers, they are saying that the objective taster prefers the Whopper – an entirely different, I think, less effective message.

**On that note, “our burgers are so good that they transcend any cultural boundaries” is so much more effective! It ups the peer pressure element to the umteenth degree.**

The classic taste test is a good concept, but what BK missed here, I think, is the audience and how much they care about the subjects. The taste test only works if you can show and convince your audience that EVERYONE or a MAJORITY of people likes this thing; by using the element of peer pressure, the advertiser can get consumers to try something new or switch to a different brand. BK missed the peer pressure element…with the Pepsi/coke taste test campaign, Pepsi rolled out with some statistic about how 80% of those who tried Pepsi liked it better (not to mention their test audience matched their target audience). So if I’m a Coke drinker, I’m in the minority, and Psychology says that humans don’t like being in the minority, we like conformity, so there’s the incentive to switch: if everyone else likes Pepsi, then something must be wrong with me if I don’t. Where’s the incentive for me to eat a Burger King Whopper in the Virgins commercial?

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