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One of the first initiatives put into place by 3G Capital when it acquired Burger King in the fall of 2010 was to broaden the chain's demographic.
Prior, the brand had focused mostly on young males through marketing campaigns such as the Burger King king, a comic-book like figure with a permanent smile, and the Subservient Chicken, which did whatever fans asked of him.
"Historically, the company targeted the heavy user, males 18 to 35 years old. This was not representative of our overall average consumer, which is much more diverse," CFO Daniel Schwartz said last year. "The idea is to more effectively target all the guests coming to our restaurants, not just one subset."
With BK's most recent lineup of celebrity-filled TV spots, including soccer star David Beckham, it looks as though that demographic shift may just be happening.
According to YouGov BrandIndex, which interviews 5,000 people in the U.S. each weekday about their brand perceptions, Burger King's ad urging Beckham to take off his shirt resonated with female consumers. (See one of Beckham's two BK commercials here.)
In fact, women have had higher perception scores for Burger King than men for nearly the entire year.
For the first half of May, when the chain's spots aired featuring Aerosmith lead singer Steven Tyler, men's favorable perception levels of the brand nearly doubled, yet continued to fall just short of the average score of top national QSR chains. During that time period, female perception remained even, closely aligning with the top national QSR chain average.
However, once the "take off my shirt" Beckham ads arrived, women's perception peaked at the end of May and tracked above the top national QSR chain average, where it currently remains.
YouGov BrandIndex measurement scores range from 100 to -100 and are compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
At the beginning of May, Burger King had a wide perception gap between men and women – women's buzz score was 64, while men was 34, with the top national QSR chain average at 57.
Men's buzz score increased from 34 to 60 on May 16, timed with Tyler's commercial spot. The score fell just short of the national top QSR average that day of 63. Burger King's current buzz score with men is 50, well above where it was in early May.
Right about the time the men's score peaked in mid-May, women's perception began rising from 65 to a 76 peak two weeks later on May 29. The women's buzz score is now 69 – a 19-point gap with men's perception, and eight points above the national top QSR average.
Marketing and image shift
Burger King began transitioning into a sales-driven, marketing culture last spring. In doing so, the company performed an in-depth consumer analysis in the U.S. to improve marketing effectiveness, Schwartz said.
The strategy included turning the spotlight on core products, enhancing ingredients and leveraging its flame-broiling and guest customization components.
Since, Burger King has rolled out its most extensive menu and marketing initiatives in the chain's history. In April, TV spots featuring Beckham, Tyler, Jay Leno, Mary J. Blige, Salma Hayek and Sofia Vergara began airing to complement the new menu offerings.
Also in May, Burger King's financial results seemed to reflect the fundamental changes taking place at the chain, as the company reported its best comparable sales performance in more than eight quarters.
The star-filled spots aren't expected to continue into Q4, but Burger King has a new slate of products to maintain buzz among a broader demographic, including a barbecue-inspired summer menu. Burger King also introduced a new tagline to go along with the summer menu: Taste is King.
The new TV spot – featuring Dire Straits' "Walk of Life" – has every demographic covered while touting its grill-centric menu. Check it out:
Alicia Kelso /
Alicia has been a professional journalist for 15 years. Her work with FastCasual.com, QSRweb.com and PizzaMarketplace.com has been featured in publications around the world, including NPR, Good Morning America, Voice of Russia radio, Consumerist.com and Franchise Asia magazine.