Shreyas Kulkarni
Interviews

"We expect a lot of out-of-home consumption this year": Burger King's Srinivas Adapa

The CMO talks about the 'It's not a burger. It's a Whopper' ads, rise of drive-thrus, menu tweaks, and risky logos.

It’s not every day that you see a reporter standing outside a Burger King restaurant, yelling, “Sansanikhez khabar… andar se khabar”. Well, one can’t be sure in today’s time, but still, the probability is low on any measuring scale.

Turn out that the reporter was dishing out the fact that the Whopper, Burger King’s top offering, is different from a burger. Yes, “Whopper aur burger main hain zameen aasmaan ka farak."

Srinivas Adapa
Srinivas Adapa

The 56-second spot from Famous Innovations is the most recent one from the leading QSR brand in its attempt to distinguish the Whopper from a burger. But, why? We posed the same question and a few more to the brand’s chief marketer Srinivas Adapa.

Edited excerpts:

What’s with the urge to distinguish a Whopper from a burger? You have the word ‘burger’ in your brand name…

The Whopper has a unique proposition, unlike the burgers we’ve come to define in a conventional manner. It is a four-inch bun, comprising of a patty, sauces and some inclusions… The Whopper is similar to something like seven layers, it has more patty and a multitude of sauces and layers in it. You hold it in your hand and you will feel the difference from a regular burger.

From a non-vegetarian perspective, the biggest point is the flame-grilled patty with that smoky feeling… It is very unique to the Whopper. To put it bluntly, it’s not just a campaign idea, it’s a product proposition, which is far superior to a normal burger. Hence, the idea, “It’s not a burger, it’s a Whopper”.

People will go for brands they are familiar with and trust this year… Will you tweak your menu and add new dishes, or stick to the tested food items?

All of us are coming out a certain phase of our lives (COVID lockdowns), where we were largely working from home, cut down on going out..

What we’ve picked up is that there’s a lot of pent-up demand, as a lot of out-of-home (OOH) consumption moved indoors. Now, with things opening up, we expect things to turn on its head and a lot of OOH consumption.

During the lockdowns, Burger King worked hard on really improving its products. For instance, we recently launched the ‘King’s Collection’. It is a set of four gourmet burgers that offer a premium experience: cheese meltdown (cheese infused inside the patty), a new take on paneer, fiery chicken and tandoori grill.

Another insight we picked up from our customers was that the world of chicken eaters is divided into those who like the bone and those who don’t. So, we’ve launched boneless chicken wings, where you get all the goodness of a good spicy fried chicken without the bone.

For QSR brands like Burger King, the quintessential experience takes place in the restaurant. What are you doing to urge people to return?

We came back on national media last December (2020) and drove brand saliency after the lockdown. We wanted to put our best foot forward and that’s why we launched the “It’s not a burger, it’s a Whopper” proposition. For us, it’s about the content we created in a way that leveraged the existing cultural fuel.

Take our ‘Grilled by 2020’ campaign late last year, for instance. We let those who were given a hard time by the year, give one back. Another one was the recent ‘Sensational Whopper’… It goes back to the brand’s DNA, we used what was happening around us (cultural fuel).

Your app and website, or the food delivery giants like Swiggy and Zomato, what is driving your deliveries?

We’re available on all three platforms. While we work closely with our delivery partners, we are gearing up on our app, in terms of reading analytics, providing loyalty points and a better brand experience… As a brand custodian, my job is to ensure our presence wherever a customer is accessing Burger King.

The Indian drive-thru is different form the one in the west… 2021 could well be its year in this country. What are the challenges you’ve faced with drive-thrus?

Drive-through contributions are much higher in the west, as compared to India. During the lockdowns, drive-thrus performed better because people were on the go and kept interactions minimal… As things open up more, we would see more dine-in customers, but I think that the drive-thrus are here to say.

Burger King’s big agenda is growth – increasing the number of restaurants… We are at around 260 restaurants, our goal is to reach 700 by the end of 2026. Now, this can happen in multiple channels, like a drive-thru, restaurant in high-end locations, transit spots (airports and railway stations), and restaurants inside a mall.

Burger King changed its logo in January 2021. From an India perspective, what do you make of the move, considering the trend of people “reacting” to everything?

I think it’s a good and not a risky one. We keep our tonality and the essence of the brand as real and authentic, not just at a communication level, but at a product level.

Also Read: Burger King changes logo after 20 years

We grill our patties for the Whopper. We are working on making our food healthier. None of our products has added MSG. And, all of our burgers are preservative-free… Our logo is a reflection of being simple, real and authentic. That’s why we have removed the swoosh and the shine… the new logo is very simple and the thinking is in line with the brand’s essence. Yes, the US market took a lead, we are right now planning the change for India.