Burger King's 'Whopper Virgins' Viral Marketing Campaign

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This case study was compiled from published sources, and is intended to be used as a basis for class discussion. It is not intended to illustrate either effective or ineffective handling of a management situation. Nor is it a primary information source.

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Case Details:


Case Code : MKTG248 For delivery in electronic format: Rs. 400;
For delivery through courier (within India): Rs. 400 + Shipping & Handling Charges extra


Brand Management / Marketing Communications / Positioning
Case Length : 22 Pages
Period : 2007-2009
Pub Date : 2010
Teaching Note : Not Available
Organization : Burger King Corporation
Industry : Fast Food
Countries : US


This case is about US-based fast food giant Burger King Corporation's (Burger King) 'Whopper Virgins' campaign that was launched in December 2008. This was a viral integrated campaign that involved conducting a 'taste test' where participants were asked to select the best burger after having Burger King's flagship product, the Whopper, and the signature product of its competitor McDonald's, the BigMac. What made the campaign especially noteworthy was the fact that the respondents selected for this test were from the remotest parts of the world, and according to Burger King, they did not have any knowledge about burgers or other American food.

Marketing Management Case Studies | Case Study in Management, Operations, Strategies, Marketing Management, Case Studies

The viral campaign was backed by other promotional elements such as TV advertisements, print, and online ads. The campaign generated a lot of buzz in the blogosphere as well as other media and quickly spread through word-of-mouth marketing. While many experts commended the viral marketing campaign for having helped in brand recognition, many others criticized the campaign idea, describing it as offensive and culturally insensitive. Some ad experts also pointed out that due to errors regarding search engine optimization techniques in the viral strategy adopted, the campaign had not been effective in garnering as much of a reaction as intended. Critics also raised questions about the authenticity of the taste test conducted by Burger King.


Understand the issues and challenges in launching a viral marketing campaign.
Analyze the 'Whopper Virgins' marketing campaign and understand why it was criticized for being culturally insensitive.
Discuss and debate the ethical considerations involved.
In the context of the case study, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of using a viral marketing campaign.
Understand the increasing importance of search engine optimization and search engine marketing plans in the context of viral marketing.
Explore ways in which the company could have made the 'Whopper Virgins' campaign more effective.


  Page No.
Introduction 1
Background Note 3
The Challenge 4
The Whopper Virgins Campaign 5
Campaign Culturally Insensitive? 7
Documentary Not Convincing 9
Burger King's Response 10
The Results 11
Viral Marketing Error 12
Controversy Good for Burger King? 13
Looking Ahead 13
Exhibits 15


Viral marketing, Marketing strategy, Branding, Advertising, Culturally insensitive, Ethics, Word-of-mouth marketing, brand awareness, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Viral Error, Taste test, Market research, Burger King, Wendy's, McDonald's

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