The King is (still) dead

In this piece posted at Slate on Monday, Seth Stevenson gleefully celebrates Burger King leaving behind its old PR company, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, whose “raunchy, bro-focused vibe … target[ed] the lowest common denominator with campaigns that valued provocation above substance and casual cruelty above inclusiveness.”

The changes at Burger King aren’t news, since BK dropped Crispin 10 months ago and subsequently dumped the creepy “King” character last August. Nevertheless, the piece is a good reminder of the lengths corporations will go to in order to get people to buy (add air quotes, if you’d like) food, especially if we’re talking multinationals trying to build a brand identity.

As Stevenson writes about Crispin’s outré campaigns, “There was a conscious strategy at work here: Crispin told me straight out that it had decided to laser-focus all its marketing on BK’s ‘superfans’ — meaning young dudes who eat fast food on a near daily basis. I wondered at the time if actively ignoring, and even offending, every other demographic category in America might be unwise for a nationwide brand that could potentially find solid customers among women, children, and men who don’t wear Ed Hardy T-shirts. But Crispin plowed on. And what happened? … At a time when McDonald’s and Wendy’s sales were growing, Burger King’s shrunk. Sales in 2011 fell by about 4 percent, and BK—long the No. 2 to McDonald’s—is projected to drop to No. 3 in market share, overtaken by Wendy’s. Burger King’s demographic tunnel vision fared particularly poorly when the recession hit, as young men have suffered disproportionate unemployment levels and now have much less money to spend on 1,300-calorie bacon-burgers.”

In related news, as part of its effort to stay competitive, Burger King is now testing home delivery in the Washington, D.C. area. For a review, including a pointed quote from Marion Nestle, check out this column from the Washington Post.

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