Cannes Lions

The Impossible Whopper

DAVID, Miami / BURGER KING / 2019

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Case Film
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Overview

Background

When Burger King came together with Impossible Foods to create the first plant-based Whopper we knew we were playing with fire. The Whopper, is Burger King’s signature sandwich. Its fans are loyal; any perceived changes that may affect the taste of their favorite burger are met with vocal skepticism. While we are known for our beef burgers, only 32% of consumers consider us a modern brand (Burger King Internal Data).

Our partner Impossible Foods is a modern, but small start up having just launched its signature product in 2016. Additionally, selling plant-based to meat eaters is challenging as products marked plant-based see sales declines of up to 56% (London School of Economics. Better Buying Lab Study, 2019)

To drive trial, we knew we had to prove this was worthy of the Whopper name. But, would America embrace a plant-based burger from a fast food giant? Would our fans love it?

Idea

We conducted the boldest blind taste test. We switched the 100% flame-grill beef patties for 100% flame-grilled plant based Impossible patties without telling the guests. With hidden cameras rolling, we waited to see if anyone would notice. They didn’t.

We conducted the test on April 1st, or April Fool’s Day. A day known for pranks, even from corporations. Burger King is not immune to the fun, last year pranking everyone with the fake release of a Chocolate Whopper. But this April fools, it wasn’t a prank and we surprised everyone with the truth.

Strategy

While 52% of Americans are embracing more meatless options into their diet, plant-based meat has yet to gain national appeal with only 2% of the meat market share (one Poll 2018 Survey + Nielsen xAOC + WFM, 2018). However, Impossible Foods tastes so much like the real thing that 90% of its consumers are meat eaters (Impossible Internal Data). When it comes to plant based meat, consumers value taste above all other considerations (Plant Proteins, Mintel, Jan 2018).

Our opportunity: We had low believability behind Burger King as modern brand, low awareness and penetration for plant based meats, but a product that we knew had the power to do the impossible and fool meat lovers into believing it was the real thing. On April 1st, a day known for branded pranks, we did something almost as unbelievable as our product.

We told the truth.

Execution

We launched the Impossible Whopper on April 1st, the same day many other companies are pitching their prank creations, such as the Google Tulip or the Shutterstock IRL. Except our creation was real and it was being launched in actual Burger King restaurants: the first Whopper made with no beef, and that still tasted like a Whopper.

This innovative PR angle captured the media imagination, making newscasters and public alike to wonder if it was or wasn’t a joke, even though Burger King was clear that this is really being launched. This launch has been applauded as a good surprise and a clever way to subvert the audience’s expectations of plan-based foods. A plant-based Whopper that tastes just like the Whopper? Impossible to believe.

Outcome

10 Billion Media Impressions (1)

More than $100 Million in earned media (2)

Exceeded Sales target by 3x, making it the best product launch of the past 10 years (2)

+11% Foot Traffic, based on 500 daily average visits (2)

89% repurchase intent (2)

28% repeat incidence, after only 1-week post launch (2)

52% of guests were lapsed (2)

+95% positive sentiment impact about our menu (2)

Sources: 1) Cision, Weber Shandwick, Loures and ABMC, 2) Burger King Internal Data

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