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Meet the Latino behind Burger King and Popeyes viral marketing campaigns

May 8, 2020

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Meet the Latino behind Burger King and Popeyes viral marketing campaignsMeet the Latino behind Burger King and Popeyes viral marketing campaigns

Burger King had a big announcement to make: it would remove all of the artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from its Whoppers. But the company was in trouble. The other Hamburg chain already had … McHecho the same. If Burger King had placed ads promoting its freshness, it wouldn’t have had much of an impact or even looked like it was copying its competition.

What could I do to make the call? Burger King’s marketing team started working with WhatsApp, the chat tool that is used internally and that creates the most creative ideas. There they joined three agencies and created a plan. You’ve probably seen the result: On February 19, Burger King posted ads for its famous, now additive-free burger that spoiled for 34 days, got ugly with greenish purple mold, and finally collapsed. about yourself (see ad below).

The stomachs rattled everywhere. That day, Burger King’s mentions tripled on Twitter and according to Sprout Social, a social media analytics company (for which the data was accessed) s), a week later they were 22 percent higher than in the last seven days. The media also went crazy and reported Forbes, CNN, People y The New York Times. Apparently, nothing makes more noise than mold when it comes to fast food.

But that was just a day at the Burger King offices in Miami. The brand has distinguished itself through risky marketing campaigns that take away the fleeting attention spans of our culture and consequently drive business long term. And now comes the same groundbreaking marketing from Popeyes that Burger King owns of RBI, the parent company of these fast-food giants, with a $ 5.6 billion profit last year alone.

The secret sauce? A Brazilian soccer fan named Fernando Machado.

Machado, 45, is RBI’s director of global marketing. Since joining Burger King in 2014, he has managed 50 to 60 marketing campaigns a year, all of which had the perfect mix of timing, self-deprecating humor and power. While he has garnered marketing awards (such as Adweek’s Grand Brand Genius in 2018 and Cannes Lion as the creative brand of 2019), average annual sales growth across the chain’s system has risen to 9.28 percent from 5.56 percent in the three years before arrival.

But it was a long way. Born in Rio de JaneiroMachado grew up without any interest in marketing. At the age of 19 he studied mechanical engineering and to gain experience he took a job in a Brazilian factory where he had to design detergent boxes for Unilever. But when the marketing team arrived at one of the brands, I was shocked. “It was very exciting because these people ran the business, but they also had a creative part in their work,” he recalls. “I thought maybe I could do better there and I would definitely have more fun.”

Eventually Unilever hired him for a marketing position where he grew and scaled while creating unforgettable projects. During the “Real Beauty” campaign, a marketing activity that lasted more than a decade and celebrated the difference in body and appearance of real people, he became VP of Dove Skin Care. It was an overwhelming task to complement the work of the brand , but Machado managed to bring a brilliant concept to life: a forensic artist drew the faces of several women, first according to the description they had made and then after describing a strange In 2013, these sessions became advertised summarized with the slogan: “You are more beautiful than you think”.

Machado had already made a name for himself at the time, but this campaign defined him as a key player in the industry. At the end of this year, however, he felt restless. He had worked for Unilever for 18 years. “For the first time in my career, I didn’t have to do anything else,” he says. “And I was afraid of getting stuck in my comfort zone.” He wanted an even bigger challenge: to form a strong brand that drives. At that time, Burger King was the perfect fit. After speaking to some people he knew, he joined the brand as the marketing director.

In early 2014, when he moved to Miami, Machado knew absolutely nothing about the fast food industry and started contacting franchisees. “You can learn a lot from them,” he says. “They’re on the battlefield every day, looking customers in the eye.” I wanted to understand what brings a hamburger for sale and who the end customer is. And as he grew in his position, he continued to do so. He has a lot of formal meetings today, but he also posts regularly with franchisees and restaurant managers on LinkedIn, where he can find out about the trends and changes in business.

They also set about building a creative team. Machado is demanding and proactive in this regard. He says he’s looking for people who have “the same creative ambition” as he does, and when he sees someone who’s talented, he contacts them. When she was at Unilever, she met a man from a creative agency and quickly took him to her office to discuss a project. Well, that boy, Marcelo Pascoa, is the marketing director for Burger King. On another occasion, Machado was impressed by an agency in Spain at RBI. He tweeted to the creative director that he liked his job and suggested that they apply for a local project with Burger King. Currently, this creative, Pancho Cassis, is CCO of David The Agency, the brand’s leading external agency.

Image: Courtesy of Alison Brod Marketing + Communications

Machado treats his creative team as if they were always in an eternal brainstorming session. Inhale Twitter not only on WhatsApp, but also around the clock. (“If you asked my wife,” said Machado, the father of a 5-year-old and a baby, “she would throw the phone into the pool.”) He also takes off-office sessions. On Thursdays he has a soccer game with some of Gut’s partners, the external advertising agency that he now uses for Popeyes. (“I rarely win,” he admits). He also usually organizes barbecues for the David The Agency team. And in the office he likes to keep his feet on the floor. Even though he’s a C-Suite manager, he always wears a Burger King shirt. “I thought he would wear it on his wedding day,” says Cassis. “He didn’t do it, but it was a joke all day.”

None of this is random. Machado takes the time to put his team together and wait for a reason: he knows that he has to trust them. Because marketing has to be risky for him and stay up to date with the culture, and you have to make decisions quickly.

Machado asks his team for many ideas and rejects most of them. But everything goes through the same mental filters. “The first thing I analyze is whether it fits the brand,” he says. “Does it match the values ​​and personality of the brand? Does it fit the brand history? Does it fit the current position of the brand? “Then he analyzes whether the idea meets the company’s strategic goals, because it is obviously terrible to kill a great concept, but Machado sees it this way: When his work generates more strategic business goals:” I will get more funding and more people to Bring investing. ” and support me, ”he says. And that means you can keep working.

Then he finally asks: Will people talk about it? This step is important because your budgets are not as big as your competition. So what he cannot achieve with paid means, he seeks human attention. “I need ideas with legs that people share on social networks and want to get organic media coverage,” he says.

That’s how it all developed in 2017.

“I’ll never forget that,” says Machado. He received a call from two men from David The Agency asking to meet with them. “I thought, ‘serious? I’m bad, do you really need me to go?” Juan Javier Peña Plaza and Ricardo Casal, who called and are now good partners, promised to cheer him on when he arrived. So Machado left .

They showed him a concept: in a 15-second TV commercial, a Burger King team member said, “OK Google, what’s the whopper?” When the ad appears in a room with Google Home, the device is activated to read the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper burger. It was a clever and somewhat annoying way to make fun of the rise of home voice devices.

Machado loved it. When the ad was released in April 2017, Google quickly prevented its device from responding to the actor’s voice. Machado responded by starting the ad with different voices. “We really wanted to have fun,” he says to amuse many. According to internal data, the campaign generated 9.3 billion impressions and $ 135 million in earned media.

At other times, Machado needs a lot more to convince itself. Once Casal and Peña Plaza presented him with an idea for lifting net neutrality, a topic that was on the news at the time. “And I said, ‘What the hell is that?'” Says Machado. “I had no idea what net neutrality was.” The duo explained it to him twice and then outlined his concept of using Whoppers to help people understand what it would mean to lose democratic access to the Internet.

“It will never work,” said Machado.

“Yes, yes, it will work,” said Casal and Peña Plaza.

Machado was not convinced. (“He hated the idea, he literally hated it,” recalls Casal). Regardless, he gave them the money to produce the ad because the point when hiring risky talent is that there will be times when they know things you don’t know. The ad they produced showed customers packing their whoppers while others were told to wait or pay $ 25 to get them faster. They released it in January 2018 and it became the most shared ad in Burger King’s history.

“It was one of those moments,” says Casal, “when we looked at each other and understood how much we trusted each other. There were times when we said” No, it won’t work “and in the end we do it … and it works because he’s creative too, and nobody knows the brand better than he does. ”

Having taken more risks with Burger King, Machado has discovered another important reason to push the craziest ideas: sometimes they can show more business opportunities.

That’s exactly what happened in late 2018. Burger King wanted people to download his new app. Many competitors had one, so the product itself was not new. Maybe they could give a whopper to anyone who downloaded it? No no. “We had already done it. Chick-Fil-A had done it, Wendy had done it, McDonald’s had done it, ”says Machado. “Nobody had heard of these campaigns because frankly nobody was interested.”

His team created an impossible scheme: customers could order one Whopper for a penny, but only if they place the order within 180 yards of a MC Donalds. Yes. They had to go to their archrival’s store to get the offer. “We know that our fans love good jokes,” said Machado. “And they love being part of the joke.” To achieve this, Machado coordinated the demarcation of a virtual fence that included not only the 7,000 stores in the United States but also the 14,000 McDonald’s locations across the country.

The campaign caused over 1.5 million people to download the Burger King app in the 9 days the promotion was active, increasing sales by 37.5 percent. The company estimates that this should result in customers spending an additional $ 15 million a year, bringing the return on investment for this campaign to 37 to 1. “It was massive,” says Machado. “And with our virtual fence, we build up information that we still use today. Because now I know when people go to McDonald’s and I know when they go to Burger King. There are times when these tech bets can help you develop skills you’ve never thought of. “

How do Machado come up with these ideas? This is a question you are constantly asked. He usually says that ideas come from active collaboration. “But I also have the option of placing a problem or something to think about somewhere in my head and constantly processing this information, even if I don’t actively think about it,” he says. So the most incredible solutions appear at random times, such as when you’re driving, playing soccer, or changing diapers.

But there are times when there is no time for it and decisions have to be made quickly.

In this way, the Machado team achieved its greatest success in 2019 as its work expanded to include marketing oversight for Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen. Everyone on Twitter can remember what happened: With a single tweet, Popeyes sparked a chicken sandwich war that resulted in people standing in front of their restaurants in the U.S. for hours.

That’s how it happened. The chain launched its new chicken sandwich. A week later, on August 19 at 11:15 a.m., a Popeyes publicist saw that Chick-fil-A had tweeted a subtle criticism of this new sandwich. He immediately alerted the entire team via WhatsApp, a group of more than 20 people, including Machado, the Gut agency, the social media agency GSD M and Legal. Bruno Cardinali, Popeyes’ marketing director for North America, gathered people on the fifth floor of the Miami office to come up with an answer. A quarter of an hour later they had it thanks to GSD M.

“Is everything okay over there?” (“Are you okay?”) Popeyes tweeted in response to Chick-fil-A.

And hell broke loose.

“The African-American Twitter audience got involved and brought it to a level of conversation that I honestly had never seen in my career,” said Machado. “It was everywhere. There were restaurants that were fined because their queues were so long that they disturbed other places in the region. There was a teenager who decided to register voters for the election because of that a lot of people were in line … Obama even tweeted about it. “

Popeyes ran out of sandwiches in eight days. This made international headlines. Brand sales increased 42.3 percent this quarter from 6.3 percent in the previous year. And it didn’t stop there. This year, Popeyes was already making headlines about selling their uniforms as a trendy fashion look when fans noticed a remarkable resemblance to Beyoncé’s Ivy Park collection. Machado was excited, but everything was designed. After all, this is the result of the foundation he laid: a risky team that is always vigilant and a spectacular approach to ideas that generate business.

He says it’s addictive and he’s going to do a lot more now because he’ll also oversee a third RBI brand, Tim Hortons. “When an idea comes up and you see that everyone is talking about it and the message you want to communicate comes, it is a rush for the whole team,” says Machado. “We are always looking for that feeling.”

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