Burger King’s New Idea: Marketing To Women

It looks like Burger King probably should have conducted some quality research before deciding exactly WHO their “superfan” really is.

For a while now, Burger King has proclaimed the “superfan” to be young males that frequent fast-food restaurants on a super-regular basis (9-10 times per month).  And over the past year, they ramped up their advertising with controversial campaigns like SpongeBob SquareButt and the one I wrote about in detail, the Super Seven Incher.

Burger King said it was all about males, ages 18-34.

Now, they’re thinking a little differently – mainly because their sales have been riding a slippery slope in the downward direction.

According to an article in this week’s AdAge, John Chidsey, BK CEO, re-defined “superfans” for investors:

To clarify, it’s not just 18-to-34-year-old males, it’s all ages and all household demographics, with over half of them having children.

And interestingly, over 29% are 50 years of age or older.”

In other words, their marketing was all screwed up.  They spent a great deal of time and an inordinate amount of money alienating their core customers.

Women who not only purchase meals for themselves, but for their spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, children and – perhaps most important – grandchildren.

Has Burger King learned its lesson? Time will tell.  The company is introducing new menu items and promotions to attract female customers back to its franchises.  No word yet on upcoming advertising campaigns, but most likely they will be backing away from the “wonderfully edgy” campaign their ad agency talked them into.

It’s another blow for the advertising myth of the 18-34 demographic.  Hazzah!

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11 Responses to “Burger King’s New Idea: Marketing To Women”

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  1. Jennifer says:


    Thanks for sharing this info about “superfans”. It should be Rule #1 to know who the audience is before ever putting the first idea to paper, and too often it’s later in the process. Burger King is the perfect example. I haven’t had my family there to eat in years. The commercials were bad enough, but what mother really feels good about giving her kids “Chicken Fries”?! Can’t wait to see how they work to turn it around.

  2. Tracy says:

    Great post. When you look at what McDonald’s has done with moms over the last few years you wonder why Burger King waited so long to realize who they should be targeting. It will be very interesting to see what comes next for BK.

  3. Michelle,

    BK has made the same mistake many companies make, thinking that their core market segment can be defined by age, gender or income. Everyone eats, therefore everyone is their potential market. If they only focus on a small portion of that group (and with their misguided ads, a small portion of that demographic), they miss out on many potential customers.

    The best lesson for all of us is to focus not on some small demographic at the expense of all others but on the values or traits that our business shares with customers from all demographics.

  4. Phil, you are so right about this being a mistake that runs rampant amongst brands with mass appeal – they go for a big hit with a small segment and ignore the rest. It’s certainly worth noting how often the world’s most powerful consumer (women) are the segment that’s not just overlooked, but insulted and alienated in the process.

    For me the Burger King case brings up a couple of other questions
    1. Even if their super fan was a male 18-34, is this kind of advertising OK?
    2. Why does Burger King stay with an agency (Crispin Porter) that has managed to insult hispanics and women repeatedly (Remember the sponge bob square pants debacle?)
    3. How long will it take brands to figure out that when your market includes almost everyone, you need to make sure you take care of the toughest consumer (women) first. Once you can win her, chances are you’ll be delivering a better product, message, service to everyone. And then we all win. Including the bottom line.

  5. Mary,

    I agree wholeheartedly. I once heard the argument that since the man drives the vehicle, he chooses where to eat. I assume it was a man who never stayed in a relationship very long:-)

  6. I just have to say – I love Craig Ferguson.

    I think it’s possible to super target smaller groups of consumers with specific ads. The key is not to alienate the rest of your customers.

    Taco Bell is firmly after young males, but their advertising, from what I’ve seen, isn’t offensive to the rest of their market.

    And it goes both ways. I know Michele and I both preach the importance of not bashing men in marketing that’s aimed at women.

  7. Kristen D. says:

    I happen to like edge, I like quirky humor and I like appropriately, inappropriate innuendos- this ad is none of the above (hey, that’s just my opinion). There is a fine line between edgy and tasteless and for each individual consumer the line is defined by their morals and values. What motivates me to buy a 7 inch sandwich and what motivates my 13 year old prepubescent male cousin will certainly be different. The problem is exactly what Michele brings up; BK has missed the mark in defining their actual target and has hit way off the bull’s eye with this ad. Especially, considering how much more they SHOULD be marketing to the female consumer.

    I suppose only time will tell what will happen with this ad or future ads for BK. Let’s all just pray they’re better than this when targeting women. http://tinyurl.com/yh2ap67

  8. Tom Wanek says:

    The problem with BK’s approach — other than targeting the wrong consumer — is that it relies on gimmickry, which lacks relevancy. And your brain immediately discounts that which is irrelevant – even if the information surprises you a little. It’s equivalent to falsely screaming fire in a crowded theater. These tactics have a short shelf life, and will eventually hurt your credibility.

    It will be interesting to see BK’s new approach and how much it differs from what the company is doing now.


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