Burger King likes to serve burgers and fries, sure. But when it comes to advertising, BK has developed a reputation as one of the more daring US corporations. The latest example: an off-the-wall attempt to use Google Home as a platform for a viral campaign.

The Ploy

Burger King devised an add that triggered Google’s voice-activated Home smart speaker when the actor says, “Okay, Google: What is the Whopper burger?”

The hack was designed to spur Google Home devices to then read the Wikipedia listing for Burger King. Which they did. Until Wikipedia users caught on and started editing Burger King’s entry to include less-than-positive statements about its famous burger, including that it was “cancer-causing” and that its ingredients included “rat and toenail clippings.

Just three hours after this campaign launched, Google shut down the functionality on the Home device, and Wikipedia blocked further entries of the Burger King page. Still, Burger King found workarounds to continue the fun.

Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down?

Is Burger King clowning around with this campaign?

The question for marketers here is: did Burger King succeed in its effort to push the envelope? Yes, its Twitter account saw a 3x boost in activity following the stunt, but much of it was negative. But that brings up the old PR adage: there’s no such thing as bad press.

So will this joke serve Burger King in the long run? Will it be known as a company not afraid to take risks, and will it see an ROI as a result? Or will people roll their eyes at the brand and dismiss it?

Time will tell. Certainly, Burger King opened up new territory by hacking into the AI of Google Home. The smart speaker doesn’t technically offer advertising (though there’s been a recent backlash about what seemed to be an ad for Beauty and the Beast on devices), so it’s anyone’s guess whether other brands will similarly try to hack this next-gen technology tool to their benefit.

Burger King seems to adhere to the policy of begging for forgiveness rather than asking for permission in this case.

And Is It Content Marketing?

Is this really content marketing?

The lines between content marketing and advertising are blurring in new and interesting ways right now. Consumers often don’t know they’re being marketed to if they are immersed in an experience they enjoy, and brands are striving to create those positive experiences so consumers will dissociate them from typical advertising and marketing.

So what about Burger King’s campaign? Can it be considered content marketing?

If we consider that the aim of content marketing to build awareness of a brand through engaging content, then yes, I think we can consider it content marketing. It’s foreign to us because of the format, but just think: thousands of people likely told their friends about the hack, who then tried it themselves. Regardless of what the Wikipedia entry said about Burger King, the result was that people were thinking about the brand, and perhaps then going out to buy a Whopper.

Whether or not you’re ready to experience a backlash like Burger King has, take note of its efforts: you win nothing by being cautious, and if you are willing to take risks in your marketing, at the very least, you get people talking about your brand.

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