Shreyas Kulkarni

"Good brands adapt in ways that they're still meaningful to customers": Srinivas Adapa, Burger King India

The CMO of Burger King India says the brand has doubled its activity online, and will soon launch an omnichannel app that works both offline and online.

When Burger King (BK) releases an ad, people sit up and take notice. Why? Because the ads look cool, are fun to watch, and often leave you grinning. It sort of makes you want to tip your hat and say "well done".

Srinivas Adapa, CMO, BK India, says the brand is conversational by nature and that its strategy is built on "being authentic". He says that the brand aims to remain topical and stay relevant to consumers.

This approach of being conversational and authentic seems to work. The QSR brand's latest ad '#BailMeOutBK Contest' manages to hit the right 'relatability' notes.

The results of all the cooking adventures we've embarked on during lockdown... "That's where Burger King bails you out," says Adapa. Just take a picture of your cooking results, tag the brand on social media platforms, and you will end up winning a free 'Whopper'.

Before this, the brand released an ad called the Reassuring Whopper allowing people to win a Whopper for themselves and their loved ones.

Adapa goes to say that the brand has relooked each part of its marketing mix: the messaging, the tonality, the content and the channels used for communication. "We have to adapt and good brands do it in such ways that they're still meaningful to the consumer. The top changes we've done is dial-up our communication about safety and hygiene. We've taken it a notch up with organic videos, talking clearly what we do..."

Adapa reveals that the brand has doubled up its activity online because these days, people are online all the time. So, has the brand tied up with an online platform? Adapa's response, "Depending on the campaign, we do a tie-up with social media platforms, or content aggregators."

Dine-in to ordering online

The lockdown has nearly destroyed the dine-in culture, and online deliveries and takeaways have become the new normal. So, how does a brand convert an offline consumer to an online customer?

Adapa makes it clear that every channel is relevant because, "From a decision-making hierarchy perspective, consumers make a choice of the food, or the brand on offer, and then comes the question of ways to access it." Adapa is of the opinion that the best experience of a burger, hot fries and cold Pepsi is still at a dine-in restaurant.

Our conversation soon moved to deliveries and takeaways, and Adapa was quick to tell us about BK's new plans. "We'll soon launch a tech-enabled omnichannel app that works online and offline. It's not just for delivery, but you can use it at the restaurant, too.

Imagine you're at a BK restaurant and you don't want to stand in line, or pay cash, given the safety concerns. All you need to do is open the app, choose the food you need, pay through the app, and then get a notification that your food is ready."

It’s all about hygiene

According to Adapa, because BK is a leading international QSR chain, it already has excellent hygiene and sanitisation protocols and now "is the time to dial this up further".

"When the (Coronavirus) crisis hit in early March, we were clear as a leadership team. Our first and foremost priority is the safety of our crew and our guests," he added.

Some of BK’s measures, as per Adapa, include:

Crew safety: Our crew across all our restaurants operate with gloves, face masks and adhere to WHO prescribed social distancing guidelines. Every crew member undergoes a mandatory temperature check at regular intervals.

Sanitisation: Our sanitisation protocols are stringent and include not just the crew washing their hands every 30 minutes, but also vegetable washing and sanitisation of guest areas, like billing counter and lobby.

Food assurance: Our patties are cooked at high temperatures of 180 degrees (or more) and are safe to consume. Further, all our burgers are free from synthetic flavours and colours, and the fact that we have separate kitchens for veg and non-veg food, helps us ensure zero cross-contamination.

Delivery reassurance: Every delivery pack of ours comes with a reassurance seal and is signed off by a crew member with her reassurance on the safety protocols with which the food has been made. And also. just to be sure, we attach a sanitiser sachet with every delivery bag so that our guests can enjoy our food with safe hands.

Social distancing is here to stay: At Burger King, we are geared up to practise this across all our restaurants. We have social distance markers on the floor to guide guests, and help them maintain a safe distance at our dine-in and takeaway ordering counters. Even inside our restaurant, we have markers on tables and chairs to ensure safe distance, while guests enjoy our burgers.

Marketing redefined

How has the concept of marketing changed for Adapa this year? Well, he says the fundamentals will remain the same, and made a few quick points:

Consumers appreciate brands, which are real, authentic and one they can trust. That, for me, is really important in these times.

COVID-19 is one of those big moments where consumer behaviour and purchase patterns are being altered significantly. Sometimes, history happens in decades, and sometimes decades pass away in months.

A brand's marketing element needs to adapt to stay relevant, through three pillars. First, what is your messaging, and what are you saying? Second is tonality, real or authentic? you don't want to come out as typical ad speak. Third and last is around media mix whose landscape is altering significantly. There are no films, GEC, sporting content, so what are the new emerging channels for your content?