- Burger King launched a global integrated advertising campaign that shows its signature Whopper menu item overgrown with blue and green mold, according to a press release.
- The effort promotes the removal of artificial preservatives from the Whopper in most European countries and select markets in the U.S. Burger King intends to introduce an updated Whopper free of artificial preservatives, colors and flavors to all its restaurants in the Americas throughout the year, Christopher Finazzo, president of the chain's operations in the region, said in a statement.
- Burger King has broadly taken out artificial colors and flavors from its core menu items and sides in the same U.S. and European markets, but is centering its advertising on the Whopper. A video attached to the push depicts a time lapse of a Whopper collecting mold over the course of 34 days. It ends on the tagline, "The beauty of no artificial preservatives," a message that is echoed in other campaign materials.
Burger King is attempting to subvert consumer expectations for marketing around more natural dining options by starkly showing what happens when a Whopper is left to rot. The ads take aim at the types of pristine, carefully arranged product shots employed by fast food brands that often aren't representative of what's actually served to customers.
The #MoldyWhopper campaign, which could come across as a gross-out stunt or weirdly beautiful depending on viewers' tastes, shows another QSR chain emphasizing the shift to what Burger King and CMO Fernando Machado bill as "real food" — essentially less artificial menu items that aim to win over health-conscious consumer groups like millennials.
Real food tastes better. And the “Moldy Whopper” is here to showcase that we are removing artificial preservatives in our food. #marketing #advertising #burgerking #moldywhopper pic.twitter.com/7Fbi0kkrFh— Fer Machado (@fer_machado123) February 19, 2020
Like much of Burger King's marketing, the Moldy Whopper could also read as a dig at chief rival McDonald's and a continuation of the company's long-running attempt to position itself as a disruptor brand, an initiative that's been spearheaded by Machado.
McDonald's has similarly moved away from using artificial or frozen ingredients in its menu offerings, including by introducing a fresh beef Quarter Pounder that's bolstered sales. But the chain known for its Golden Arches has sparked several viral discussions in the past about how its sandwiches don't rot or attract bugs when left out for long stretches of time, which has led some to read them as unhealthy, as reported in Serious Eats.
The Moldy Whopper joins a growing line of oddball spins on Burger King's biggest ticket menu items. Every year for Halloween, the chain releases limited-edition, grotesque takes on its burgers that have in recent years included the Ghost Whopper — complete with "spectral-white buns" — and the sickly green Nightmare King sandwich, which Burger King claimed could actually induce bad dreams once consumed.