Burger King’s Impossible Whopper: A Perfect and Not-So-Impossible Product Launch

Burger King is a place that I have not stepped foot in for over a decade. In college I would go to class, workout and then scarf down fast food. For a number of reasons, I don’t go into Burger King, but the reason most consumers haven’t been is the brand seemed out of touch, old and desperately trying viral stunts to get in the minds of consumers.

Ultimately, marketing is often seen as promotion and hype, with marketers always seeming to ask: “what can we do to get attention?” Often times marketing struggles with a bad product. I don’t care how hard you promote if your product is sub-par. The best campaigns are not going to bring in the customers. Perhaps that is what Burger King was trying to battle, until they took on the Impossible.

What Marketers Can Learn from the Impossible Launch

There are many things Burger King took advantage of in this week’s launch – things you can consider as you plan to bring on new products and services, or grow into a new market. How did they do it?

  1. They jumped on a hot trend as the first. Plant based meat is really hot right now, Beyond Meat and Impossible have been outselling traditional veggies burgers by large margins. Burger King partnered with this hot brand which not only elevated their own brand, but also allowed to claim a spot as being “first”.
  2. They launched in a market people wouldn’t expect. Burger King launched the Impossible Whopper in St. Louis, which is a nice size metro area but is not traditionally known as a launch city. It was a smart move for a few reasons. St. Louisans tend to be conservative and if the product succeeds in St. Louis, chances are good it will succeed in other markets. The other thing it created was more buzz than a market that is used to new product launches all the time.
  3. They picked a date people are expecting the unexpected. They launched on April Fool’s Day, and that was most likely a very deliberate move on their part. While April Fool’s Day in and of itself had little relevance to the promotion, it did lead to a great deal of speculation as to whether it was real or a trick. This created valuable social media buzz, and drove large crowds to St. Louis area Burger Kings.
  4. They got organic social buzz. This time Burger King ignored their competition and focused on themselves. What happened was everyone from vegans to carnivores were at Burger King posting photos and sharing that the extra dollar they paid was worth it. So, social feeds were creating an organic frenzy that fed the FOMO (Fear of missing out) which brought even more customers in.
  5. They created authentic messages. Burger King did not try to pander to groups, and did not use the launch as an overt opportunity to broadcast a position or statement about the product, veganism, or any other “ism” that could have been associated with the product. They simply put the message out there: This is what we have, we’re testing it, and we’re not trying to create a digital divide. Burger King shared where it was available and how to get it. Within one day, some locations had already sold out of the Impossible Whopper, which is continuing the conversation on social media as people share when each location is reported to get more.

In the end there are some great lessons to be learned from the Impossible Whopper launch. This campaign has me thinking that I might step into a Burger King for lunch today. Kudos, Burger King. You did this marketing campaign right.