Web Exclusive | October 2013 | By Mary Avant

In Like a Lion

Burger King, fellow quick serves go big on new-product marketing.

Burger King promoted its new Satisfries french fries with a big marketing.
Burger King jokingly changed the name of some restaurants to "Fries King" to promote its new Satisfries.
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Burger King has something big on its hands, and the brand isn’t letting it fly under the radar.

Its newest product, Satisfries, is the first of its kind in the industry—healthier french fries with 40 percent less fat and 30 percent fewer calories than competitors’ fries. To tout the milestone, the burger brand is putting as much marketing might behind the product rollout as possible.

Underlining its new focus on fries, Burger King issued a mock press release on October 3 announcing it would change its name to “Fries King” for a limited time. A logo and signage change on the website—as well as in a handful of units in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami—accompanied the release, grabbing the attention of fans and followers across the country. In addition, Burger King handed out free value-size Satisfries to guests across the country on October 12 and 13, during which time it planned to give away more than 10 million orders of the lower-calorie product.

Burger King also capitalized on social media, an area in which it has lacked traction and customer engagement in the past, to spark conversation about Satisfries.

While Burger King’s Facebook fan base grew at a rate of just 9 percent since the start of the year—compared with the average quick serve’s 20 percent—that number shot to 40 percent after the September 24 introduction of Satisfries, according to social media intelligence firm Unmetric.

Fan engagement on Facebook and Twitter also skyrocketed, Unmetric reports, with one Satisfries-related Facebook post garnering more than 76,000 likes and 6,000 comments.

On Twitter, the brand has grown its number of followers by 5.8 percent since the Satisfries launch. Sending out more than 230 tweets on the social medium, Burger King has netted nearly 5,300 retweets, 2,600 favorites, and 4,000 replies.

Unmetric CEO Lux Narayan says the Satisfries social campaign may be the best thing that has ever happened to Burger King.

“The quick-service business does not respond to miniature ideas.”

“It’s fantastic that a brand has the courage to do something that is so big,” he says. “If more and more brands start thinking like people,” they’ll be more successful with social campaigns, Narayan adds.

Gary Stibel, founder and CEO of marketing management consultant New England Consulting Group, says Burger King’s powerful marketing push is not only a positive move for the brand, but also the most logical one.

“It’s foolish to take small initiatives in the [quick-service] business,” he says. “The [quick-service] business does not respond to miniature ideas.”

Stibel adds that many quick-service brands make the mistake of promoting new menu development in a series of small steps. “They’d be far better off focusing on big opportunities and putting the weight of the business behind them,” as Burger King has done with the Satisfries campaign, he says.

Though there’s always the risk of putting too much money, advertising, and other marketing power behind a product that’s unproven on the market, Stibel says, the bigger risk is “that you waste your newness by waiting to see if it’s going to be successful, and then you support it when it’s old news.”

New is a powerful, powerful word,” he says. “To waste the newness of a new product waiting to see if it’s going to work or not is foolish.”

While Burger King’s promotional push for Satisfries is notable, it’s not the first or only brand to put a powerhouse marketing plan behind a new product. From Taco Bell’s Doritos Locos Tacos to Wendy’s Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, many quick

serves go a long way to garner buzz over new and innovative menu developments.

For its limited-time Pretzel Bacon Cheeseburger, Wendy’s launched a 360-degree marketing plan with merchandising, national television and radio spots, and digital and social media campaigns.

One of the most popular campaigns built around the new burger was “Pretzel Love Songs,” in which the brand turned some of fans’ most creative social media posts into love-song lyrics. The lyrics were then performed by musicians like singer Nick Lachey in a series of videos seen by more than 83 million consumers throughout the U.S.

The success of the product and the campaign behind it has even inspired Wendy’s to introduce the Pretzel Pub Chicken sandwich. Once again, the brand is turning fans’ social media love into a video series, this time fronted by Puerto Rican actress and singer Roselyn Sanchez.

“The quick-service restaurant category is competitive, so it’s crucial for us to support new product launches with creative and impactful marketing to break through in this tough marketplace,” writes Denny Lynch, senior vice president of communications at Wendy’s, in an e-mail to QSR. “We don’t want to just announce news, but we want to consistently engage consumers to show them Wendy’s has bold and innovative menu items.”