While it's still very early in the game, Burger King's move to drop its longtime icon "the King" in favor of TV spots from new agency McGarryBowen that emphasize food quality and freshness, has produced some positive results already.
According to YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks major brands' social buzz on a daily basis, since the first of the new ads appeared about three weeks ago, perceptions of Burger King have improved notably -- even giving McDonald's a run for its money.
BrandIndex measured both brands using its Impression score, which asks respondents: "Do you have a generally positive feeling about the brand?" Results were filtered for consumers who had eaten at hamburger QSRs during the past month.
Just prior to the launch of BK's new campaign on Aug. 20 -- a spot for the chain's limited-time California Whopper that focused exclusively on the burger's guacamole and other fresh ingredients -- Burger King's Impression score was 24.4, or less than half McDonald's' 48.9. (BrandIndex's scores range from 100 to -100, and are calculated by subtracting negative feedback from positive feedback.)
Burger King's score began jumping soon after the first spot's debut, and by Aug. 30 (10 days out) had reached 45.1. In comparison, McDonald's -- which was at 54 on Aug. 18 -- had drifted down to 41 by Aug. 30.
As of Sept. 9, Burger King was retaining its edge, with a 38.8 versus McDonalds's 35.9.
Another new BK spot, also focused on the product, reintroduces the Breakfast Croissan'wich.
The new, much less edgy and teen-oriented creative approach has been second-guessed by some in the industry. However, as Technomic President Ron Paul has pointed out, focusing on "fresh" has worked incredibly well for Whole Foods and Subway, and is also now the rallying cry for Target, 7-Eleven and a growing number of other brands.
Furthermore, Burger King's drive to improve adults' perceptions of its food, as well as its facilities and marketing, is considered overdue by many. According to Brand Keys' Robert Passikoff, menu variety/healthier choices and quality ingredients have become the big loyalty differentiators or drivers among QSRs, and the old drivers -- value/pricing and taste -- are now considered givens or cost-of-admission. And when it comes to quality perceptions, BK lags not only McDonald's, but also Subway and KFC.
BK's U.S. and Canadian same-store sales declined 5.3% in Q2, resulting in a 2.2% system-wide same-store sales decline, despite increases in international markets. Revenues were down 4%, but the company saw its highest adjusted EBITDA margin in a decade.