Do you remember the first time you saw him? He seemed to be born of the uncanny valley, a place usually reserved for artificial intelligence. The permanent, goofy grin emblazoned on a plastic head donning a crown. It’s difficult to forget the Burger King, a vestige of early 2000s marketing that walked the line between creepy and hilarious – oftentimes crossing that line, erring on the side of creepy, and ignoring the levels of discomfort viewers are willing to experience.
After five years, the Burger King is attempting a rebirth, the Miami New Times explained. The decision is prompting many to ask why, especially when you take into account Burger King’s market share dropped during the plastic-faced king’s reign.
“The King has been breaking status quo for decades and has earned his space in pop culture, explained Burger King Chief Marketing Officer Eric Hirschhorn. “He conveys the confident and bold spirit of the Burger King brand, which you can see comes to life in everything we do.”
You could probably reach a consensus among a certain segment of the marketing population that would say this Burger King campaign is a prime example of bold marketing. He certainly has been pushing boundaries.
Ultimately, your judgment will hinge upon your definition of what it means to be bold.
- Does it mean pursuing a high-risk strategy?
- Do you judge boldness by how well the campaign sticks out in the minds of your audience?
- Should you defy conventions?
Let’s look at it from a few angles:
If Bold Equals High Risk, Does it Mean High Reward?
One strategy that most companies steer clear of is using profanity. Entrepreneur highlighted Dollar Shave Club’s somewhat risky and direct approach with the central claim being “Our Blades Are F—ing Great” in an online video that went viral (and made our list of best explainer videos).
Why is this bold? Using profanity – even if it’s thinly veiled – requires a very clear understanding of your intended audience. You probably won’t do as well throwing around F-bombs if you’re selling diapers. And Dollar Shave Club has done quite well with more than 18 million views. The company has created a bold video marketing campaign by making short, yet powerful and hilarious content that builds on the startup’s messaging.
Thou Shalt Not Drag Your Competition’s Name Through the Mud
Of the unspoken marketing commandments, attacking your competition is generally frowned upon. The reasoning is that if your product or service is high quality, you don’t need to sully the good name of other companies.
It normally demonstrates some degree of desperation, but The Wall Street Journal explained that Taco Bell’s campaign took direct aim at McDonald’s and it actually succeeded. Instead of being mean-spirited, Taco Bell cleverly assembled a cast of Ronald McDonalds who had a round table discussion of the Mexican fast food restaurant’s breakfast items – favorably, mind you – while suggesting the Golden Arches have hit a rut with their offerings. Boldness comes from the fact that Taco Bell is willing to target arguably the most iconic fast food restaurant in the world, but it did so by giving the competition more of punch in the arm than a full-fledged jab in the nose. Best of all, the campaign has earned Taco Bell significant traction online and in stores.
Taking Multicultural Marketing Seriously
The automaker Toyota is an international brand that has a pretty broad appeal. In fact, the Camry is the No. 1 car in the U.S. in terms of sales, Advertising Age wrote. With such a strong position, you might think that the automaker could sell to anyone it wants. However, Toyota has found that it’s especially popular among Hispanic, African American and Asian American audiences, which it has targeted with a multichannel marketing campaign.
For example, Toyota sponsored the DramaFever Awards, which is a video-streaming website featuring South Korean and Spanish-speaking dramas. Cementing its position in front of its target audience is a smart strategy to keep buyers engaged. A video featuring a woman reconnecting a long-lost guitar with the late blues legend B.B. King exemplifies the campaign’s theme: “One Bold Choice Leads to Another.” The company used video to show how its customers are the ones making the most important and bold choices, with its car as the vehicle making it happen.
Why Be Bold?
Regardless of the industry and audience, there’s massive competition among businesses to get heard. Being bold – whether that’s taking an unconventional approach, using off-color humor, or actively limiting your campaigns to target specific audiences – helps you stand out from the crowd, even if it means using a creepy guy with a plastic head.