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Restaurants are driving paying customers into stores using Facebook and tracking ROI to the penny. And here's how...

At first glance, Burger King's Whopper Sacrifice campaign looks like a simple coupon promotion. But it's actually a model for profitable use of social media. So how did the fast food Goliath use Facebook and track a financial ROI?

Burger King provided two layers of value to customers by offering a free Whopper to anyone who took a minute to “clean up” or purge unwanted friends from their Facebook account. The first was a free Whopper, and the second a better Facebook experience.

BUT... the action that earned the reward (free food) was one that customers already wanted to perform. They already wanted a better Facebook experience. They just lacked motivation.

Sure they wanted the free burger but they wanted a better experience more. And Burger King leveraged that idea into a way to  drive measurable sales... upsell and cross-sell "take rates," for instance. ("would you like fries and a coke with that?")

Burger King scored a victory, not because it put coupons into the hands of customers, anyone can do that on Facebook. BK ran a 100% trackable coupon-based campaign that was able to be analyzed on a profit-generation basis. Simply by engaging in direct response and measuring in-store behavior.

This short case study in the video teaches restaurant owners and employees how to create real, prove-able results with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Not "buzz" nor "conversation" nor "engagement" nor even preference. Sales. 

The action item from this is: What do your customers already want to do? And how can you use that to your advantage via social media? Can you give your customers an incentive to do something they already want to do?

Can this lead them toward a purchase or re-purchase they're already inclined to make? How can you improve their experience, with anything, and serve your own needs too?

Jeff Molander

Published 7 December, 2010 by Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is a professional speaker, publisher and accomplished entrepreneur having co-founded what is today the Google Affiliate Network. He can be reached at jeff@jeffmolander.com. He is a regular contributor to Econsultancy. 

29 more posts from this author

Comments (16)

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Jeffrey Summers

This is a success? Seriously? This is just another example of how out of touch people are with understanding social media tools to create long term business results. Where's the functional utility? How does this deepen the resilience of any strategic brand message? Where's the engagement with the brand that helps build or sustain brand loyalty? Hell, where's the engagement with their own brand loyalists? How does this help to cement BK's own community? The "action item" should serve to connect guests to some BK brand trait that that already appeals to them based on functional utility within the BK experience itself. Not from a disconnected attempt to attract guests and incremental sales from activities that will be forgotten by the weekend. Continuing to utilize such tactics that have no relationship to your actual brand experience is downright dangerous. So every time we engage in the negative act of 'unfriending' someone, we're supposed to think of going to BK and buying another Whopper? How about every time we take out the trash? Stub our toe? This is nothing more than a silly attempt to grab headlines and tweets by people who still think the medium is the message. BK needs more than a one-off social media stunt to get it's brand back on track. Diluting the value of an iconic product as well as the profits of franchisees who desperately need long term sales growth answers, is not it.. @JeffreySummers , President, RestaurantWorx

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi, Jeffrey...

This is a success? Seriously? This is just another example of how out of touch people are with understanding social media tools to create long term business results.

I'm not sure I follow. You're questioning if it's a success in the short term without any kind of quarrel with what I've presented (people went to BK and got burgers and a better FB experience). Are you suggesting they didn't? Concurrently you're suggesting this IS "just another example" of creating "long term business results." So it's a short term blunder and a long term success?

Where's the engagement with the brand that helps build or sustain brand loyalty? Hell, where's the engagement with their own brand loyalists? How does this help to cement BK's own community?

The engagement with the brand is when customers do things that they WANT to do -- and get rewarded for it.  Twice.  You seem to be arguing that improving someone's experience with what they love (Facebook) and being rewarded with food that they love (Whoppers) doesn't "cements BK's community."  Ok.  I don't understand how that works but ok.

The "action item" should serve to connect guests to some BK brand trait that that already appeals to them based on functional utility within the BK experience itself.

Ok.  But I think social media agencies and marketing employees should be busy selling product and improving the lives of customers in the process -- not so busy "linking brand traits."  To me that is the core of "brand."  Selling products that improve the lives of customers.  I believe LL Bean said, "I do not consider a sale completed until goods are worn out and the customer is still satisfied."  Seems to me that selling "good stuff" is a great way to build (and evidence) strong brand.  Better than "linking brand traits."  

Not from a disconnected attempt to attract guests and incremental sales from activities that will be forgotten by the weekend.

Will the sales be forgotten?  And will the Facebook experience revert back to being poor?  I'm not sure that I follow you, Jeffrey. 

So every time we engage in the negative act of 'unfriending' someone, we're supposed to think of going to BK and buying another Whopper?

That's precisely the point.  BK didn't want anyone to THINK anything.  They wanted them to act.  And they did.  They earned a Whopper and got a better FB experience.  Thoughts about the wonderful, iconic brand not required :)

almost 6 years ago

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KnDino

This trackable form of a paperless coupon does indeed help a brand. It also serves as a possible conversion, becasue this customer could become a potentially new client. At the end of the day, if BK or any brand/business is able to draw new customer count into the door, give away an item that has a cost of less than $1.00 and upsell (2) items that have a total cost of less than .30 combined,  but those 2 items sold then produce a profit of about 90% ( soda retails for $1.69-.15 / 1.69= 91.12%profit and you do the math on the fries.. Then my friend at the end of the day, it was worth opening the doors and indeed helped to pay the bills:) @jeffreysummers, you do raise some interesting ?'s but I don't understand why you don't see the success in such a SM campaign.. it showed ROI and created traffic and a profit..I for one think it was a success for them..@kndino http://www.facebook.com/Kndino

almost 6 years ago

Ed Stivala

Ed Stivala, Managing Director at n3w media

Good post Jeff. Totally agree with your take on this campaign. 

almost 6 years ago

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Frank

The way i see it, is there´s only one proof of ROI and that would be, that upselling in store makes more profit than the away given burgers cost. Jeffrey is totally right by saying the "unfriending" idea was used to generate media buzz and worked out in that way. But isn´t social media about buzz? At least in some ways. Jeff, i think it´s a bit naive to see unfriending as improvement of experience on fb. You could refriend after having eaten you burger. It was a good and funny campaign not more and nothing less.

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

@KnDino - to be clear, the coupon was printed out on paper (from the users' printer)... but, yes, you're on to the metrics aspect here. Consider also if the coupon-redeemer brings friends.

@Ed Stivala - thank you for the feedback.

@Frank - I agree with how you see the 'proof' aspect, yes. Actually, I would argue that the un-friending didn't generate as much media buzz as it generated un-friending activity. Why? Because people WANTED to un-friend. Frank, I think you may be missing the point. Un-friending IS (was) an improvement for the people who did it. This was not a true "sacrifice" -- because the people being sacrificed (un-friended) were actually NOT people who the user wanted as their friend to begin with... or they were too chatty... or whatever the reason. I tell this story in lectures all the time and nearly everyone in the room agrees -- they have "friends" that are not (they'd rather not be subject to their blather). Anyway... thanks for the thoughtful perspectives and all the tweets, everyone.

almost 6 years ago

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Rob M

Jeff - I agree that the buzz this created probably delivered some short term impact for the brand (and likely over and above the measurable Whopper promotion).

However, I have to agree with the point made by Jeffrey Summers - does this iconic brand really want to be associated with the negative? Is un-friending really a concept you would want your brand associated with? It would be great to see a similar concept use a more positive action within social media.

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi, Rob... I'm trying to understand. Let's say I agree w/ BK's premise -- that I have Facebook friends that I really *do not want* as friends (ie. they somehow tricked/spammed me into being their friend, for instance... or in any way just do not ad value to my Facebook experience anymore).

I have friends who are not friends. Or let's say you have them. Think about it. I don't want these friends anymore. I agree so much that I'm going to take an action. I'm going to do what I really have been wanting to do for a while now. Remove what I do NOT want (thus, leaving more room on my Facebook page for people/brands I DO want to engage with). Clean house.Somehow this is negative?

Yes. It is negative -- in the eyes of someone who believes that "branding" is some kind of mystical voodoo. Bear with me, please. To the extent that they're willing to look past customer experience as being the ultimate indicator of brand. ie. The customer purchased the product. They were satisfied -- or not.

Now I know many will not agree with me. But I'm not looking for agreement. I simply believe that experience is brand. Behavior is brand. Telling someone how to feel about or think about or admire or fall in love with "the brand" doesn't work. Because it never did work. Experience is king.

And as I see it this campaign, and others like it, improved experience. In this case, twofold to the customer. PLUS the brand was able to drive sales AND measure the ROI on redemption, up-sell and other important metrics. BUSINESS metrics (as opposed to "funny math" marketing metrics like "lift" and "view through" that are designed to somehow connect to sales). Thanks for considering.

almost 6 years ago

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kiran voleti

Wonderful post Jeff.Great explanation about how restaurants are using social media.

almost 6 years ago

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Dustin Donham

Hi Jeff, Great video, you clearly have mastered public speaking and see the big picture. This drove sales which brought a measurable ROI. Did it increase brand awareness? Maybe, but you'd have to live under a rock not to know about this brand. Did it help people get a free sandwich in times were money is tight? You bet. People remember free and that grows brand loyalty. Sure its not track-able but its true. Just curious how old is this campaign ? More often than not that free sandwich probably brought in an additional customer, as no one likes to eat alone. Is there any way could have BK tracked? Or better yet given another item to encourage that? "Lose some friends gain some friends, get fries free with your free whopper if you present this coupon with a friend" Applebee's is doing that with the 2 entrees for 20 dollar concept looking for the appetizer and drink up-sells. My take is that in addition to a printable coupon, the campaign should have included a mobile component. BK could have sent a link to a mobile coupon landing page that included a video of a specialty dessert or side they are running to encourage an upsell. "When stop in for your free whopper try our new "BK Brownie Pie" or our "Jalepeno Poppers" Get the customer thinking what else they can buy while they are in line.

almost 6 years ago

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Mike Lukianoff

I have to agree with Jeffry Summers.  I'm a quant guy, so while I agree that tracking and measuring and calculating an ROI is one of the great and underused benefits of social media I don't see that this is a great way to use the medium.  BK just took a direct mail/FSI startegy and tweeked it to fit Facebook.    

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi, Dustin...

This campaign was so successful it was killed off by Facebook in 2009 (if my memor serves well).

Yes, anything can be tracked once the Facebook-specific (that's the trick) coupon is presented.  Information at POP can be gleaned and logged (database). 

Did customer

- come alone or bring customer?

- "take" an up-sell (fries, soft drink or other high-margin product) or no

- not use the coupon at all

- attempt to use the coupon outside of redemption period

And of course all of these can come together to paint a picture... perhaps in a dashbord.  This gives a look at how the campaign is performing.  Maybe the redeption period can be tweaked (lenthened) because redeemers need more time.  

Maybe the coupons are being shared -- literally copied (presenting tracking problems).  This opens the door for a creative means to change user behavior -- in ways that still allow them to share the deal but in ways that can be tracked.

Or maybe the limits set on "deal earning behavior" (un-friending at the rate of 1 coupon per 8 un-friends) can be adjusted upward or downward.  A simple A/B test could reveal that 8 un-friends is not optimal.  Setting it at 4 is better -- because "group A" demonstrated more willingness to spread the word about the campaign (grow it in a way BK wants).

Even if my examples above aren't good ones they serve my point: That marketing is marketing.  And branding is branding.  To Jeffrey's points above.  If you're rather "brand" in non-behavioral ways with Facebook be my guest.  If you'd rather sell AND "brand" I think it's a stronger value.

Thanks for the feedback and ideas everyone.

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

@Mike L. -- 2 questions? 

We've set aside the other uses of social media here and confined it to marketing. (ie not focused on customer service)

1) I'm curious what's better than selling? If you're a marketer isn't your job to sell? Before replying I'll ask that you consider David Ogilvy's "We sell or else" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Br2KSsaTzUc

Are you disagreeing with the fundamental idea that marketing has been built on? Given your position (that there are more important things to do -- ie. "brand") are you suggesting that "we sell or else" is outdated? And if it is what's replacing it? "We engage or else?"or "We brand or else?" 

2) You say this is pedestrian use of social media.  If so it should be easy for you to quickly list off a handful of other marketers using it this way.  I'd be eager to hear some if you'd like to share.

Many thanks for considering.

almost 6 years ago

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Bob Phibbs, the Retail Doctor

People were motivated to unfriend because of a greasy sandwich? Who is the core audience that goes for that carrot? Kids with no dough. It sounds like a gimmick to give yet more free product. Easy for CMOs looking to do "something" rather than build value for their franchisees. I'm with Jeff on this.

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

Hi, Bob...

I think you mean Jeffrey but I'm not certain. And if you think BK should do away with couponing I may agree w/ you.  But I'd not hold your breath on that!

Bob, I think you, Jeffrey and others risk missing the point. Burger King used the concept of utility to create positive experience (improving the Facebook experience of customers).  They also tracked use of a coupon to track ROI within a social media campaign. 

Although you seem to believe this (selling and tracking ROI within social media) to be trivial, I'd sure like to hear some examples from you, Mike and others of businesses doing something more important or remarkable. 

And if this truly is campaign design that is worthless I'd appreciate hearing some specifics.  Please present counter-points to those I've offered.

almost 6 years ago

Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander, CEO at Molander & Associates Inc.

@Rob M, Jeffrey, Mike... "... the most efficient, most effective, most durable way to build a brand is to sell someone something. Experiencing a product is a thousand times more powerful than experiencing an ad. Getting someone to try your product is far and away the best way to build your brand. It is also the most efficient way to engage consumers, have conversations with them, and build a relationship with them.

The engagement/conversation/relationship crowd are confused about cause and effect. You don't sell someone something by engagement, conversation and relationship. You create engagement, conversation and relationships by selling them something." Bob Hoffman The Ad Contrarian Blog

almost 6 years ago

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