How NOT to get buzz for your brand

Burger King’s marketing team is awful.

Or they’re geniuses. It depends on who you ask.

On the surface their interaction with social media users seems like one of the better examples of how a brand should interact with people. However that was before the Twitch fiasco. They’re failure shows that not all buzz is good and that companies have to respect influencers and brands.

Here’s the situation…

Burger King used the feature on game streaming service, Twitch, that allows audience members to donate to the streamer in exchange for getting a bot to say whatever they want, live on the feed.

BK (Burger King for you heathens out there) put in the required amount (usually 5 dollars) and basically spammed their deals across the Twitch-o-sphere.

What a brilliant idea! Millions of captive audience members sitting in front of their screens looking forward to the next joke or burn voiced by a bot. Who could be angry when the bot instead revealed BK’s newest promotions?

This backfired worse than that time Napoleon attempted to infiltrate Russia during the winter.

With a little research and common sense Burger King could have avoided this embarrassing defeat. However, they pressed ahead and were forced to make a hasty retreat.

Why? Because not only did they ignore the Twitch Terms of Service agreement, they came across as the worst embodiment of the corporate machine.

In essence, Burger King became the capitalist boogeyman of modern-day socialist nightmares. A big money-making Goliath taking advantage of the little David. For while we see the burger brand as a business, one can’t forget that those streamers are mini entrepreneurs in their own right. Last year alone some Twitch streamers earned high six-figure incomes.

Many aspire to be at that level and are attempting to build a brand, one stream at a time. True, like other forms of influencers, some twitch streamers take on sponsorships. But like those influencers, they expect to get paid more than five bucks AND know exactly what kind of service they’re promoting beforehand.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, there is a general… how shall we say… antagonistic feeling from most young consumers toward large businesses. Because anti-capitalist sentiments are extremely strong, especially among a demographic of young people who might want to take advantage of a good meal deal, companies like Burger King have to be careful how they approach their customers and how they come across.

In this case, Burger King made the reckless error of basically exploiting Twitch streamers.

Strangely enough a couple of popular business bloggers mistook this technique for marketing genius. It goes to show you how little respect some out of touch business people can have toward young people online. I like to imagine a very embarrassed intern had to tap someone on the shoulder and say, “Ugh, have you seen the comments?”

If you haven’t let’s just say, they were bad.

The worst part is, Burger King knows how to do this right. They aren’t dumb. For example, they hyped up their funnel cake re-release, after their introduction in 2010, by liking tons of celebrity tweets from 9 years prior. This caused those with huge followings to question the strange comments and likes of their seemingly ancient tweets. Followers of those accounts saw and retweeted and a storm of theories was born.
People followed the Burger King account to find out what was up, and all of this built up to the perfect moment when they announced that, “Looking back” on the past is sometimes a good thing. Whether with tweets or funnel cakes.

See what they did there? That’s excellent social media marketing.

Which is why their painful misstep is a reminder of how you can fail if you don’t take those you are bringing into the joke into consideration. Or how. Particularly if you’re a company without the following or clout of the big burger companies.

You see, Burger King may get kicked off of Twitch. Some may try to take them to court. There will be those that remain angry for a bit. Yet in time this will be forgotten and Burger King will be selling its products as normal and moving on to the next (hopefully smarter) viral marketing move.

However, if you don’t have the funds or reputation of bigger companies you have to be careful about your online marketing attempts. A mistake could cost your business its reputation and any goodwill with customers. In the early years, you depend almost solely on word of mouth and a tentative trust. Once broken it will be gone.

So be wary when approaching influencers or streamers with low follower counts. They are only getting started so are sensitive to how they are perceived. As with the Burger King dilemma, they don’t want to be seen as sponsoring a company without their consent. You both should be getting something out of the deal, whether that means money or social media attention.

Don’t take advantage of people; instead value those who you want to help spread the message if you’re advertising on someone else’s feed.

Going viral is never a guarantee. But getting in trouble with smaller brands for taking advantage of them is always a sure thing.