I want to take a moment to acknowledge the brilliance of Old Spice’s WolfDog campaign (which officially ended today). In general, Old Spice’s marketing has been crucial to the remarkable rebranding it underwent during the past few years, but this campaign speaks especially to those familiar with all the buzzwords and techniques of the Internet marketing industry. I don’t know what it has to do with Old Spice. Frankly, it doesn’t make me want to buy Old Spice, which still reminds me of the dusty bottle that once held a space on my parents’ bathroom sink. (No offense, Dad.) But I do appreciate the brand’s inventiveness. I like how it has an approach that’s similar to AXE Body Spray’s tongue-in-cheek machismo, but replaces the latter brand’s tackiness with a touch of surrealism. It’s the successor to Burger King’s equally inventive work with the ad agency Crispin Porter+Bogusky. For the unfamiliar, CP+B is responsible for the Subservient Chicken site and the commercials with the human Whoppers and the plastic-faced Burger King. For all its creepiness, the Crispin Bogusky+Porter ads were memorable and technically progressive. Subservient Chicken may have been inspired by webcam porn, but it is often used by ad analysts as an example of media-savvy marketing. The CP+B ads were ultimately ineffective and it may have been a smart move for Burger King to end its relationship with the company a couple of years ago, but I honestly think they should give it another shot.
When Burger King’s Twitter account was hacked not too long ago and it started spitting out bizarre and profane Tweets, it increased its number of Twitter followers by 30% in less than a day. It was so successful that some speculated that it was all just a marketing ploy, in the same way some believe
New Coke was a marketing ploy. In my opinion, there’s no way it was a ploy. The Tweets wouldn’t have been so damning and they would have made sense.
There was also a note of honesty to the Tweets in that they presented Burger King as the lower-status establishment it really is. I don’t mind Burger King. I actually haven’t been there in years: I’ve lived in the South for the past three years and they have more than enough fast food chains already. Even so, my memories of eating at Burger King rarely involve daylight: I associate it with late nights after high school swim meets and early winter nights driving up to Syracuse. No matter how clean the restaurant was, the combination of darkness, harsh lighting and saturated fats gave it a spooky atmosphere, and the creepiness of Crispin Porter+Bogusky’s marketing reflected that.
So why not embrace it? It worked for White Castle after the success of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Even Taco Bell’s “Fourth Meal” campaign was more about satisfying late-night munchies than savoring convenient food. Plus, how cool would a Twitter account run by the King or the Subservient Chicken be? The CP+B strategies could be more appropriate in a social media environment anyway. People would be much more engaged in the musings of an eccentric chicken than they would with the bland content that’s up there now. The hacker’s Tweets had a point of view, and 30% more people responded to that. I’m not saying Burger King should drop f-bombs, but having some personality would set it apart from other brands’ generic voices.
In fact, the one that really came out on top from the hacking, in my opinion, was Wendy’s. A sense of humor will get you anywhere.