Wednesday, January 9th marked the one-month anniversary of the launch of the Whopper Freakout campaign. The thousands of people who have visited So Good in order to watch the full-length Whopper Freakout video know that I am a fan of the campaign, having called it “brilliant” and “genius.” But how successful has it actually been in terms of driving web traffic, web discussion and getting online consumers to view the videos?

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Last week, I set out to provide an in-depth, statistical analysis of the web impact of the Whopper Freakout campaign. I contacted both the Burger King corporate headquarters, as well as their leading ad firm that designed the campaign, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky to get some specific raw data about the campaign. On top of that, I analyzed videos posted on YouTube, as well as blog traffic and online mentions of “Whopper Freakout” to determine just how big an impact this campaign has had online.

For those that are skeptical that the site has been getting a lot of traffic, I hit you first with this chart from Alexa, comparing whopperfreakout.com and hillaryclinton.com:

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Yes that’s right, for almost the entire month of December, more people were visiting the website for the Whopper Freakout campaign then were visiting the official website of Hillary Clinton, the leading contender for the White House in 2008. It’s not like this was a dead period either, this was in the month prior to Iowa and New Hampshire. The woman I spoke with at Crispin, Porter + Bogusky provided more detail about the web traffic, explaining:

“Traffic has been fairly consistent though it is slower than the first week. The site routinely does heavy traffic on Sundays when the spots are in heavy rotation during NFL games.”

I’m going to hit you with even more charts after the fold, but first, some jaw-dropping raw data:

  • The 7 1/2 minute video at Whopperfreakout.com has received more than 1.3 million views.
  • On YouTube, as of Wednesday, the full-length video, clips from it, or different versions of the commercials have been posted 22 different times and collectively they have garnered more than 217,000 views.
  • 5 parodies of the Whopper Freakout Campaign have been posted on YouTube, including the “Ghetto Whopper Freakout.” Together they have drawn more than 135,000 views.
  • On Whopperfreakout.com, visitors are offered a code to embed the full video onto their blog or website. The video has been embedded on 17,086 different blogs and websites.

So we know a few things already. The site has gotten a substantial amount of traffic, and the full-length Whopper Freakout video has been viewed a lot. But we also know that the website was being heavily promoted in television ads as well.

According to Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, the site launched on December 9th, and the television advertising campaign supporting it started on the same day. The core of their target audience is young men, but they have advertised heavily during Sunday football games, so the campaign was expected to generate interest among sports enthusiasts of all ages.

The television ads have been split into two categories. The beginning of the campaign focused on the removing of the Whopper from the menu. This portion of the campaign had two different 30-second commercials and five different 15-second spots. The second part of the television campaign focused on the Whopper being replaced with a competitor’s product and featured five different 30-second spots. The television ads had an immediate effect. Google Trends, which looks at what the new and emerging search terms are each day, shows that “whopper freakout” and “whopperfreakout.com” both burst into the Top Ten for search terms.

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A few detractors have argued the video sends the message that there is nothing else worth ordering besides the Whopper at Burger King. However, I feel this campaign is a great way to re-assert the Whopper as Burger King’s signature item. The ad reminds casual fans of the Whopper that it is the burger that made BK famous. Those who don’t normally order the Whopper might give it another shot after seeing how loyal some people are to the burger. Before this campaign started, basically no one was ever searching for the word Whopper on Google. As you might imagine, that immediately changed after the campaign launched:

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So we know people have been searching for “Whopper.” Are they simply searching, going to the site then forgetting about it? Or are people actually talking about it? The answer is yes, people are writing and talking about it. A search on Google for the phrase “Whopper Freakout” now gives you 103,000 returns. Let me say that again: 103,000 returns.

Wow. I can’t imagine anyone was ever writing the phrase “Whopper Freakout” before this campaign, so nearly all of those 103,000 mentions have come in the past month. The fact that the video has been embedded on blogs or websites more than 17,000 times is, quite frankly, astounding.

So how does the level of discussion on blogs about the Whopper Freakout campaign compare to ongoing stories that have been in the news for the past month? Utilizing BlogPulse, I looked for a news story with consistent ongoing conversation over the month of December without huge one or two day spikes that might skew the graph (such as the Bhutto assassination or the Mitchell steroids report). The sub-prime mortgage crisis seemed like a good candidate, having been an ongoing story in the news throughout December, but without one major event that would cause a temporary spike. As you can see from the graph below, over the past month the Whopper Freakout campaign was mentioned on blogs with roughly the same frequency as sub-prime mortgages:

whopper-vs-mortgages-2.png

To me, this campaign looks like a big success. Burger King seems to have melded together a TV campaign with an online campaign, guaranteeing a level of exposure that, for many people, extends far beyond seeing just a 30-second ad. This means a much bigger return on their monetary investment.

If you pay X dollars for 1 million people to view a 30-second ad, great. But if you pay X dollars for 1 million people to view a 30-second ad and 10,000 of them go to your website and VOLUNTARILY sit and watch a 7 1/2 minute video, that’s a huge plus when it comes to return on your investment. Those 10,000 people were just exposed to the Burger King message for 15 times longer than someone who views a 30-second ad alone.

The fact that 1.3 million people have viewed a 7 1/2 minute video (which is quite long as far as “viral” videos go) is substantial. Additionally, since the video has been embedded more than 17,000 times the campaign has had a solid online reach. Many people may not watch the video, but have probably stumbled across it being embedded on a blog they read, and are therefore more aware of the campaign.

Of course I’m not the only blogger who commented on this video when it first came out. You can read the reactions of other bloggers HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE.

For those of you who made it all the way through this post, thanks for reading. I hope this analysis has been instructive, informative and interesting for all of you who took the time to read it.

Note: I would like to thank the representatives who I spoke with at Burger King and Crispin, Porter + Bogusky. They were both incredibly helpful, extremely professional, and went out of their way to answer each and every question I posed to them.

24 Responses

  1. Eick

    Sadly that information is not as easy to obtain for such a short and recent time period. Plus as many people know, while it may be about “selling more Whoppers” it’s also about brand awareness and raising the profile of your brand.

    I asked about any knowledge of increased Whopper sales in my follow-up correspondence with the BK folks, but I haven’t heard back on that front yet. I will update this post with that information if and when I receive that info.

    Reply
  2. Eick

    Heard back from BK on the Whopper sales issue. As you might imagine, BK is not able to provide that information.

    Reply
  3. Andrew

    Great follow up post!

    Thankyou for your citizen journalism research effort, as you mentioned it has been a hot topic in the blog world but many have failed to go the extra mile, links will be coming your way!

    I think many brands can take a lesson from this, BK obviously has a lot of brand confidence and also confidence in their agency. More brands need to shift their marketing to the consumer, and every brand should read the cluetrain manifesto and understand that they need to be humans marketing to humans and not corporations taking themselves to seriously and ‘pushing’ their brands and products onto consumers. Unfortunately those days are not dead yet.

    It’s great to see youtube parodies, I do think BK could have made it an even more compelling campaign by asking for user generated content on their own site and not on youtube, that way the 7 minutes of brand interaction can be extended even further.

    Reply
  4. shatraw

    c’mon BK, what do you have to hide? either receipts indicate an upswing in sales of the damn sammich or they don’t. this is 2008. i know you get real time updates on your sales.

    show your cards!

    Reply
  5. Eick

    Andrew, I think that’s a great observation about the potential for a user generated content portion of this. Perhaps have people submit videos of how they would freakout if they found out there was no more Whopper…as you said, could keep people on the site longer…although that would add a new level of complexity to executing the campaign.

    Reply
  6. shatraw

    look, i hate to keep bringing it up, but marketing success should really be measured in sales response. i mean, i know eick might say “no, it’s measured by google searches and youtube views” but that’s because eick works for a company that tells it’s clients that. i’m not saying that’s wrong, but the end game of any advertising campaign is sales — not some abstractions about hype. (don’t tell me BK needs to reaffirm it’s brand. that’s what the whole “king” character was for.) it’s entirely possible that while this may have turned into some viral phenomenon, it didn’t increase sales any more than, say, the introduction of the king character or those really trippy ads from a few years back.

    case in point: snakes on a plane. that movie was hyped beyond belief on the internet, yet it made a barely modest showing in the box office. new line thought it was genius. they thought from all the hype they were going to make $100mil domestic or more. they saw all that traffic as ticket sales. well, they were wrong. gross was under $60mil. they spent $33mil on the move. not terrible, but not what they thought they had… or led us to believe was going on. getting a million internet users psyched about something DOES NOT EQUAL selling anything.

    here’s a better suggestion: how many people reading this have watched the commercials or the internet vids and then went and bought a whopper in the next two weeks that you wouldn’t have already purchased?

    Reply
  7. jason maurer

    I agree with shatraw — just having people talk about your brand does not guarantee sales. In fact, I have the McDonald’s ba-ba-ba-ba-ba song in my head right now, and I can’t remember the last time I even ate fast food.

    So why does either brand bother trying so hard? Why not just show the product, how much it costs and where I can get it?

    Because they want to be my friend. They want me to like them. They know that once we’re buddies, we have a relationship. Hopefully, a long-term, mutually beneficial relationship.

    This is the world of branding, and it’s a very different function than sales. Ad campaigns that endear you to the brand (like Whopper Freakout) would fail if saddled with having to carry out the sales function.

    That’s why you don’t see a “buy now” at the end of a Coke or Bud Light ad. When you put a gun to a marketing director’s head and say “Make ads that sell product today,” horrible things start to happen. Their branding turns into something like an infomercial. Their ROI becomes negligible (oh, but it’s measurable!), and the audience leaves the room.

    Fortunately, the folks at Crispin and Burger King get that first you make friends (and continue to work to keep those friends), then you make sales.

    How successful would Paris Hilton have been if she started her career by begging you to buy her perfume?

    Reply
  8. Eick

    Yeah without access to sales figures my analysis was limited to the online impact it had…how often it was watched, posted, discussed, searched for etc.

    Reply
  9. Dylan

    Just so you know, the second fiscal quarter sales of the whopper sandwich is up 29%. BK is of course being very modest and attributing some of the increase to their sponge bob promotions, but the dates of the spike suggest that their campaign has been much more effective than they had possibly initially thought.

    On a side note, I’ve been writing a case study analysis of this marketing campaign and found your article and research extremly helpful. Thanks for the hard work!

    Reply
  10. gromain

    hey ! thx for the great post :)
    the sales data are now available as Dylan was saying
    seems like it did actually worked

    Reply
  11. Charlie

    Thanks for the great analysis. I chose this campaign for my advertising class to analyze and found this article. It really helped having actual data from the ad agency!

    Reply

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