The appeal of a moldy Whopper: Learning from an effective ad campaign

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The appeal of a moldy Whopper: Learning from an effective ad campaign

February 21, 2020 - Jim Denison, PhD

Category Culture

What happens to a Burger King Whopper when you let it decompose? An ad campaign that is making headlines.

On Wednesday, the fast-food chain unveiled ads featuring the transformation of its signature sandwich over a month. The crisp lettuce wilts as the bread collapses. The flame-broiled middle turns from brown to white. Fuzz then takes over the sandwich, engulfing the pickles and tomatoes. The bread turns a greenish-gray and then blue.

Why would Burger King make such an ad?

To show what happens when a hamburger doesn’t use artificial ingredients, colors, or flavors.

The marketing officer behind the campaign explains: “I think it works so well because it’s like you’re showing something that in theory should be negative. But you’re showing it in a really beautiful way.”

The ad campaign works for at least three reasons.

One: It makes the point it intends to make. We’ve all seen ads that were entertaining but left us confused as to their message. Or ads that were interesting but didn’t point to the product or company they were supposed to be selling.

Two: It strikes a chord with our culture. There’s an intense interest today in eating organic, protecting the environment, and generally getting “back to nature.” Burger King showed us empirically that their hamburger is made only of natural, thus compostable, materials. In a different era, this message would be less interesting, but it resonates today.

Three: It is sparking interest on other platforms. I saw the ad not on television but in Forbes. When other media make your ad their story, you’re using their influence to advance your own.

Learning from an effective ad campaign

Let’s apply these three principles to our Great Commission mandate to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19).

One: It is vital that our witness point to the One for whom we are a witness. John the Baptist’s mantra should be ours: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Our message needs to be clear, compelling, and Christ-centered.

Two: We should connect with our changing culture as we share the changeless gospel. Jesus used birds and lilies to make spiritual points because he was speaking in an area where they were visible (Matthew 6:26, 28). Paul quoted the Hebrew Bible when speaking to Jews and Greek philosophers when speaking to Greek philosophers. Effective ministry begins by meeting felt needs, thus earning the right to meet spiritual needs.

Three: To build the spiritual movement we need, it is vital that we encourage and equip other Christians to use their influence for the gospel as well. Jesus spent three years with twelve men so they would then share the message with others who would reach others. Such multiplication is a “force multiplier” for the kingdom. Paul’s strategy should be ours: “What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2).

While Burger King draws our attention to a moldy hamburger, we can use our influence to promote the “bread of life” (John 6:35).

Who will you lead to him today?

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV®️ Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®️), copyright ©️ 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. The ESV text may not be quoted in any publication made available to the public by a Creative Commons license. The ESV may not be translated in whole or in part into any other language.

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