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Burger King’s creative marketing agency has enjoyed multiple successful buzz campaigns. Last year, the company took the Whopper off the menu and videotaped customers’ reactions; it also created the controversial “Whopper Virgins” campaign, offering blind taste tests that compared Burger King and McDonald’s hamburgers to people in ruralChinawho had never tasted a hamburger. The resulting YouTube videos and television commercials prompted widespread word-of-mouth promotion. Then this year, Burger King launched a new Facebook campaign to encourage even more.

In the Facebook campaign, customers could earn a free Whopper if they actually delisted  10 friends from their account. The so-called, “Whopper Sacrifice” was intended to show what someone would give up for a Whopper, and the campaign attracted a lot of attention, including participation by more than 200,000 active users who defriended others.

Facebook users are free to defriend others, but it is not a common practice without a strong reason. When it occurs,  the friend does not know or receive any notice he or she has been defriended. In the case of the “Whopper Sacrifice” though, the ex-friends received  notification and was also published on the Facebook “mini-feed” each time, which helped spread the word more quickly.

As the campaign caught on, Facebook disabled it. The Facebook page for Burger King now says: “Facebook has disabled Whopper Sacrifice after your love for the Whopper sandwich proved to be stronger than 233,906 friendships.” Users can continue to post on the fan page, and many have asked that the campaign come back.

Burger King sees the campaign as successful, even though it was shut down shortly after its launch. It affected 233,906 people, who were either defriended or actually did the defriending to receive  the free Whopper. The campaign also influenced people who heard about the experience. Thus, this campaign represents an innovative approach to getting customers’ attention in digital media.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the purpose of the Burger King “Whopper Sacrifice” campaign?
  2. Is Burger King concerned about bad press around the encouragement of defriending connections on Facebook to get a free Whopper?

Andrew LaVallee, “Burger King Cancels Facebook Ad Campaign,” The Wall Street Journal, January 15, 2009.