Burger King CMO Fernando Machado and LOLA MullenLowe ECD Pancho Cassis talk scary ideas and their working relationship
A year ago Burger King was named Creative Marketer of the Year in Cannes, making the brand’s chief marketing officer Fernando Machado a sort of king in his own right - the first among equals in the community of marketeers. Since then BK has more than lived up to that title, working with its agencies to create innovative, fun and effective campaigns that we’re sure will attract the attention of awards juries in the summer ahead.
One key partner for Burger King is Spanish agency LOLA MullenLowe, who worked together last year on a Halloween campaign that caught the world’s imagination, inspiring over 100,000 people to dress as clowns so they could get a free Whopper.
LBB’s Alex Reeves chatted to Fernando and LOLA executive creative director Pancho Cassis about the relationship that underpins this marketing brilliance.
LBB> Having been named Cannes Creative Marketer of the Year in 2017, how has the past year been defined for you? What have been the biggest moments and challenges for the brand?
FM> There is never a dull moment when you work for Burger King. We are always trying to come up with the next big thing for our brand. And we have an amazing team of people in our marketing department and in our agency partners.
The last year was amazing for our brand. We continue to open restaurants at a record pace, to improve the quality of our food, to develop better design, and to create campaigns that people talk about in a positive way. The industry recognition is a plus, we are very proud of that. Campaigns such as Bullying Jr, Whopper Neutrality, and Scary Clown Night are huge moments for our brand. The key challenge is how to continue to raise the bar and do things that are better each time.
LBB> From an agency perspective, how do Burger King compare to other clients? What defines your relationship with them?
PC> Well, I chat with Fernando more than with my girlfriend! More than a good client, he’s a great creative who is willing to do anything for his brand and that’s what makes him special. We have a relationship with the same ambition: create the best work in the world, while having a good time.
LBB> Burger King has a variety of agency partners all over the world like LOLA MullenLowe, but the tone of your marketing has so many uniting threads running through it. Fernando, what traits unite all the creative agencies you work with?
FM> We invest a lot of time making sure all our key partner agencies understand our brand positioning, our brand values and personality and our creative ambition. And since we spend so much time together as a team, the creative folks understand what the brand is about and deliver consistently against it. We also have very simple briefs, which help people get it right consistently.
LBB> Scary Clown Night was amazing! How did that idea come around?
PC> As Fernando was saying, the briefs are super simple and our teams spend all day thinking of ways to make the brand relevant, famous and entertaining to people. Scary Clown Night was originally an idea for Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, but then evolved into an international campaign based on (the increasingly multi-national holiday) Halloween, and with the popularity of clowns at an all-time high.
FM> As any great idea, it evolved over time. Scary Clown Night was not born exactly how we executed it. We nurtured it together, we made it better, we made it bigger. The partnership between LOLA MullenLowe and Burger King was critical to turn the original idea into the amazing campaign everyone got to experience.
We like to work in close collaboration with our key partner agencies. The development of Scary Clown Night is a classic example of that. The campaign was developed through a constant flow of communication between LOLA and Burger King. In fact I would dare to say that Pancho texted me on WhatsApp much more than my girlfriend during the production of Scary Clown Night (but please don’t tell her that).
LBB> That campaign was a great success in terms of sales and traffic, and is already picking up awards. What do you think it was about the campaign that made it so effective?
FM> There were three things which made this campaign an enormous success.
First, the idea in itself is outstanding. And it was executed in a flawless way with Ale Burset doing the images and Rodrigo Cortes doing the film.
Second, the fact that all Burger King marketing teams across the globe deployed the campaign at the same time gave the idea and its activation enormous scale. With social media, the more people talk about it, the more people end up talking about it. And that's what happened. We have more than 110,000 people showing up dressed as clowns all around the globe.
And, finally, it seems that our brand fans fully understand what we are up to. BK manages to establish certain consistency on doing cool things, things that put a smile on people’s faces. People get what we are trying to do. So, it is easier for everyone to embrace it.
LBB> Pancho, from your perspective, what made it so effective?
PC> Its simplicity. As a creative, it’s one of those ideas that makes you think “shit, why didn’t I come up with that? It was right there the whole time!” That was my feeling when the team told me it and I think it’s what people love about it. You get the idea in a second and it’s a super fun activation to participate in.
LBB> And can you talk us through your latest stunt, the Onion Blackout? What was the insight, the idea and how did people react?
PC> Freshly cut onions are amazing but they give you onion breath. Everyone knows that. What people don’t know is that Burger King always uses fresh onions (and fresh products in general). So, to make the point, we took advantage of International Kissing Day and took them off the menu in all our 700 restaurants in Spain.
LBB> As a brand leader you've spoken about the importance of taking risks that scare you. Which recent idea has scared you the most?
FM> We are not short of ideas that scare us here. We see that as a good thing actually. Scary ideas are different ideas and they tend to work. One idea that we all fell in love with here recently was the McMansions print and out of home. [The campaign, created by David Miami, used the gardens of former McDonald’s executives to show off that even they can’t resist flame grilling.] It is a funny, simple and crazy idea that required a lot of work to happen.
LBB> Lastly, do you ever leave home without one of your famous Whopper shirts on?
FM> Only when I visit our competitors as I don’t want to be kicked out.
Picture: Fernando and Pancho at the Wynwood Walls art installation in Miami, with Miguel Simoes, CEO of LOLA MullenLowe Western Europe (from left to right, Miguel, Fernando, Pancho).