Burger King | Fernando Machado

The 10 most influential campaigns of the outgoing CMO

Fernando Machado was the mastermind behind Burger King's marketing for years.
Burger King
Fernando Machado was the mastermind behind Burger King's marketing for years.

He shaped Burger King's brand identity like no other and was a regular guest at the Cannes Lions Festival: Now Fernando Machado is leaving the fast food company after seven years. During his tenure, the Burger King CMO showed vividly how big ideas can be realized even with small budgets. And he was one of the first to aggressively place social issues at the center of brand communication. Our sister medium HORIZONT Online looks back on a remarkable period and shows Machado's ten most successful works.

His career reads fast-paced: in 2014, Machado moved from his former employer Unilever to Burger King as Head of Brand Marketing. In 2017, he became the brand's global CMO (chief marketing officer). In January 2020, he took over overall marketing for Burger King's parent company Restaurant Brands International (RBI), and now - a year later - he's moving to computer game company Activision Blizzardas CMO.

However, these seven years are also an eternity in a marketing career. It is an exception that a top marketer can stay in a top position for such a long time. A maximum of three years is usual before the CMO falls victim to a restructuring of the management.

Creative strategy and brand philosophy

Machado's long tenure ushered in a remarkable creative resurgence for the Burger King brand, which previously defined itself almost exclusively in terms of its rivalry with market leader McDonald's. The success of this creative resurgence became visible as the brand's success in the marketplace. The success of this creative branding finally became visible when Burger King was named Creative Brand of the Year at the 2018 Cannes Lions.

Machado revealed how the creative strategy stems from the brand philosophy behind it in an exclusive interview with HORIZONT that same year, "Burger King is not only defined by its grilled burgers, but is also the brand that crowns its customers - our claim was 'Have it your way' for many years for a reason. ' We wanted to take that template into a bigger emotional space by showing that we welcome everyone and we respect people's individuality."

The result is campaigns with a tangible social connection, designed to provide a complement to product advertising. "The traditional advertising channels provide the background noise that brings customers into the restaurants. And on top of that, we're building an additional layer with campaigns designed to tie into popular culture and spark broader debates."

Machado also consistently professes to be a fan of the creative idea. The quality of the idea also has the greatest effect on the overall reach of the campaign, he says: "An idea that is really big can reach a mass audience even through a niche medium. If the idea is small, on the other hand, it will only reach a niche audience even with a big media budget."

Campaigns should take on a life of their own

Unlike other marketers, Machado even wants campaigns to take on an uncontrolled life of their own: "Campaigns always work especially well for us when we lose control of them."

A prime example of this, he says, is the McWhopper: "The idea sparked so much passion among fans that they virtually took the campaign on their own. We were aware before we launched that McDonald's probably wouldn't take us up on our offer, so we prepared some do-it-yourself materials that a lot of fans then picked up on. So the campaign idea actually came to life, but not through the brands involved, but through the fans. And that's where, for me, we reached the point where, through the social conception of our campaigns, we enable people to have their own brand experience."

„Kampagnen funktionieren für uns immer dann besonders gut, wenn wir die Kontrolle darüber verlieren.“
Fernando Machado, 2018
Similar momentum developed with "Google Home of the Whopper," when Burger King managed to activate the Google Smart Speaker in viewers' homes with a TV ad. Says Machado, "To me, that's a prime example of a brand experience where consumers take a campaign and playfully change it. And as a playful brand, that's totally fine with us if someone writes something negative about us on Wikipedia. We think it's fun."

Pranks made by Burger King

Of course, this attitude doesn't work for all brands, he says: "If you're a very serious brand in a serious product category, I would probably worry a lot about loss of control. But we're Burger King: we're known for our pranks and jokes, and we're in a category that's associated with entertainment and leisure. And when you go public with that attitude, you should be able to take a joke yourself."

But again, Machado felt that behind the fun factor, there had to be a positive communication mechanic in terms of the brand: "Through Google Home, we've managed to get people to take the time to go online, change a description on Wikipedia, and then subsequently test via Google Home whether that changed description reads the same way. This is analog engagement: consumers didn't just like the campaign or share it with friends. They invested their own time to engage with our idea and our brand."

A feel for the zeitgeist

Also always important to Machado's marketing style is a keen sense of the current zeitgeist. Burger King, for example, equipped its American TV spots in the first lockdown wave with a moving QR code . Anyone who managed to scan the code had a chance to win a free code for a Whopper delivery.

According to Machado, the idea also built on the insight that many people at the time were bored in their four walls and only got to see bad news on TV. So a TV spot with an integrated gameplay was a welcome change, as well as an effective promotion for delivery orders on the Burger King app.

However, this campaign idea is rather the exception, as it relies heavily on the medium of TV as a communication stage. Burger King's classic brand campaigns, on the other hand, focus on an audience that rarely watches TV anymore. Says Machado, "It's specifically relevant to young people who aren't as interested in traditional TV advertising anymore. And who maybe haven't visited Burger King in a while because TV ads just don't reach them enough anymore. They see campaigns like this and the chances are very good that we can reignite their curiosity about our brand that way."

It's this brand expertise that may ultimately have made him so attractive to Activision Blizzard, whose target audience is more likely to be found on Twitch and Tiktok than Pro Sieben and RTL anyway. Here, curiously, Machado will actually have to change his demographic line of sight. After all, the young target group that Machado fought so hard for as a Burger King marketer is already well tapped in the gaming environment per se. Relevant sales growth, on the other hand, is more likely to come from the older target groups who have never played games, or perhaps only in their youth.

The 10 most defining Burger King campaigns from the Fernando Machado era.

1st Proud Whopper (2014)

2. McWhopper (2015)

3. Google Home of the Whopper (2017)

4. Flame Grilled Since 1954 (2017)

Risky but successful print campaign: Under the slogan "Flame grilled since 1954", Burger King printed pictures of actual burned-down restaurants. Like this unit in Pennsylvania, which burned down in 2015.
Burger King
Risky but successful print campaign: Under the slogan "Flame grilled since 1954", Burger King printed pictures of actual burned-down restaurants. Like this unit in Pennsylvania, which burned down in 2015.

5. Bullying Jr. (2017)

6. Scary Clown Night (2017)

7. The Agency of Robots (2018)

8. The Whopper Detour (2019)

9. Moldy Whopper (2020)

Burger King Moldy Whopper Case Study from Pirate Masa on Vimeo.

10. Women Belong In The Kitchen (2021)

Burger King on World Women's Day 2021: The deliberately provocative campaign "Women belong in the kitchen" was actually intended to campaign for more women as chefs. But the original tweet from Burger King UK in particular sparked strong criticism. The company apologized and explained itself in extensive ads.
Burger King
Burger King on World Women's Day 2021: The deliberately provocative campaign "Women belong in the kitchen" was actually intended to campaign for more women as chefs. But the original tweet from Burger King UK in particular sparked strong criticism. The company apologized and explained itself in extensive ads.

Compiled by Santiago Campillo-Lundbeck and Tim Theobald



This text first appeared on www.horizont.net.

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