How Burger King is Using Wild Creativity to Fuel Business Results

Fernando Machado is in complete control of the intersection between marketing and culture. That’s the first thing you notice when you spend even a little time with the Burger King Global Chief Marketing Officer. Machado clearly has the mind of a creative but he’s able to effortlessly connect the dots between the power of great creative, the attention and recognition it can engender and the business results that inevitably follow when brand-building gains momentum.

Fernando Machado is in complete control of the intersection between marketing and culture. That’s the first thing you notice when you spend even a little time with the Burger King Global Chief Marketing Officer. Machado clearly has the mind of a creative but he’s able to effortlessly connect the dots between the power of great creative, the attention and recognition it can engender and the business results that inevitably follow when brand-building gains momentum.

Fernando Machado speaking at Brand Innovators’ CES Summit

“I am fortunate to work in a company that allows me to do bold things,” he says with genuine humility. “It all starts with the belief that, if we don’t do things differently–if we don’t do things that are creative–we are probably going to fall flat.”

Burger King’s marketing has done anything but fall flat in the last 12-24 months. In fact, you could argue that the brand has been as culturally relevant on a consistent basis as any during that time period. The attention has been felt across the social media landscape and at industry awards ceremonies, culminating with a remarkable haul at Cannes Lions last summer.

“We won 40 Cannes Lions from 15 different ideas, different markets, different agencies,” Machado marvels. “Ten of those Lions were zero cost and three of them were tweets. It’s very flattering to get industry recognition but the reality is that I am not paid on awards. The objective of the company is to strengthen the brand and drive sales so I need to connect the intention, which is to be creative, with the results.”


Machado (center) with David Teicher of Brand Innovators (L) and Paul Kontonis of WHOSAY (R) at Brand Innovators’ CES Summit

One of the big winners was Burger King’s Whopper Detour campaign, a brilliant stroke that gifted Whoppers to people who drove to a McDonald’s (!) and downloaded the BK mobile order and delivery app. (Ad Week rightly called it “a masterpiece of trolling.”) Machado loved that it had the desired effect, doubling mobile sales and driving a staggering 1.5 million app downloads in nine days.

Another beauty was Traffic Jam Whopper, an ingenious stunt that involved delivering burgers to Mexico City residents stranded in the city’s notorious traffic. The shrewd use of traffic and location data especially pleased Machado. “Technology, creativity and understanding of your target audience: with these three things, you can make it all work,” he says. “There is a correlation between the creative recognition we get and our business results.”

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