‘Black Burger’ Trick or Treat?

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Burger King burgers are dressing up for Halloween.

Burger King in a press release on Sept 28, unveiled the “A1 Halloween Whopper” just in time for the spooky season. The black burger, which originated in Japan, has now debuted in the United States and it’s not just the color that’s causing commotion.

The idea to change the color came from the worldwide success that started with the release of the Japanese Kuro Burger (black burger). The Japanese burger, made with squid ink and bamboo charcoal, enjoyed such success that Burger King decided to release the mysterious snack stateside.

“Our U.S. guests have been extremely curious about the bun flavors they’ve seen introduced in Japan and other countries, so we saw the opportunity to bring them an equally unique experience,” said Eric Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer, for the BURGER KING (R) Brand in North America. “We tailored the flavor of the black bun to the American palate with A.1. sauce a flavor this country loves, and we’re delivering it in a way that’s never been done before by baking it into the bun. It may look Japanese but it tastes like America.”

The burger, sold at select stores for $4.99, has stirred mixed emotions with American audiences.

Twitter is swarming with users comparing the black burger to a burger aired on a SpongeBob episode while others are excited about the twisted treat.

According to a CNN article, the bizarre bun is the first of many experiments that Burger King is using to cause their competition to quiver.  

As a PR professional, what are other ways the black burger campaign can increase productivity on its path to success? Do you think Burger King is smart for launching this burger during the Halloween season? Is it a trick or a treat?

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10 Responses to ‘Black Burger’ Trick or Treat?

  1. Kate Sitter says:

    Specialty products are very common during holiday seasons. From a sales perspective, it takes advantage of the already present anticipation for set seasons. It’s a good tactic because seasonal products have a level of expectation from consumers (like Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks)

    The case of the black bun burger from Burger King is slightly nuanced. From my personal perspective, I don’t think the burger looks appetizing. Similar reactions have been voiced through Twitter. However, some people think it’s a fun, seasonal experiment and are willing to try it. I do think that introducing the black bun on Halloween was a good idea. Releasing a black bun without an appropriate holiday would be strange and not effective; it wouldn’t have the inherent excitement that Halloween creates among people. Because Burger King released the black bun on Halloween, it inherently means that it is an exclusive item. Exclusivity and limited-time offers inspire action from consumers as well. From a PR perspective, releasing the black bun establishes Burger King as a company that pays attention to the interests of its customers. It shows Burger King’s playful side, that connects with people on a more emotional level than just on a cost basis.

  2. Alexandra Long says:

    The strategy that Burger King is using to garner attention and gain market share is an interesting one. Perhaps it is too hard for Burger King to be heard by consumers through all the “noise” of the fast food and burger industries. Not only must Burger King compete with McDonalds (arguably its most fearsome competitor) but it must also compete with Whataburger, Jack In The Box, In-N-Out, Five Guys, Smashburger, Culvers… the list goes on.

    Are consumers buzzing about the latest menu item at any of those establishments? If they are, I haven’t heard it. Do I ever eat at Burger King? No. But I might be curious enough to try the black burger. Many people may also be curious enough to abandon their lunch plans at McDonalds to give it a whirl.

    It is my personal belief that being noticed in an industry that swallows you whole (no pun intended) is always a treat.

  3. Allyson Gerrard says:

    Wow! What an interesting idea. I commend Burger King for being so clever and releasing this black burger during the Halloween season. I would assume in the next week we’ll start to see Halloween themed ads featuring the burger (if it’s not already happening now). BK should definitely take advantage of social media and use a good hashtag to showcase their fans loving the new burger. McDonald’s has played with their shake flavors in the past, I know they had a green Shamrock Irish themed shake for St. Patrick’s Day. I wonder if they have something up their sleeve for the Halloween season. So far I haven’t noticed anything from them yet.

  4. Alyssa Hillman says:

    I have yet to hear about this “Black Burger,” but I love it! The idea of giving the audience what they want and tailoring it to meet their satisfaction is very smart in my opinion. The customers asked about the unique burgers being sold overseas, and Burger King listened and delivered.

    They were especially creative in two ways: (1) instead of just simply selling the Japanese Black Burger in the U.S., they altered the component that made the bun black while considering their new Black Burger audience, and (2) they launched it just in time for a season where people are probably more willing to try “spooky-looking” food items. If Burger King launched this around Christmas or in Spring, I don’t think they would have received as much positive reaction as I’m guessing they are.

  5. Brittani Gomez says:

    Alexandra Long,

    Your question about “buzz” surrounding this burger is somewhat detailed. There has been quite a bit of “buzz” on Twitter surrounding this new burger. Many people are comparing it to a burger off of SpongeBob while others are voicing their opinions on Instagram. Actually, a friend of mine just posted an image of the black burger earlier today and used hashtags to describe his feelings about it. I think that once more people start to try the burger, more conversation will begin and people’s feelings towards it will really come out.

  6. Catherine Hahne says:

    Bringing about a product for a holiday is always a smart marketing movie. Lush Cosmetics consistently brings out new products for each holiday and season to keep their look fresh.

    Having a black bun for Halloween complete with a burger to go with it is extremely smart. People from all over will be looking to see if there is a burger king in their area that supplies this burger. The burger doesn’t just have a black bun, it has A1 steak sauce and has a full limited burger to go with the limited time bun.

    They also brought in the bun for a second reason, testing their Japanese flavored buns to the American markets. Having this black bun allows Burger King to test the Japanese bun with the perfect time: Halloween.

  7. Mary Kenney says:

    I think that the black burger campaign will definitely increase curiosity about Burger King and the black burger. Many people will try it just to try it. It is also an interesting idea to put the A-1 flavor into the burger. That is something I have never seen on a fast-food menu. I think it was a great idea to launch this burger during the Halloween season. One of the colors of Halloween is black, so the hamburger matches perfectly. It would be awkward to launch the black burger during a holiday season that is colorful. It is a different campaign and I am interested to see how successful it is. I do think that this is the best time of year to launch the campaign though.

  8. Asia Poole says:

    I think this burger was released at the perfect time! Halloween is such a celebrated season in America, the only time to release such a burger would be now. This campaign is interesting to me because until reading this post, I had no idea why they actually did it. I honestly thought it was just to boost sales during this season. If I were to do a campaign like this, I would suggest that we do more explaining of why we added this product. Only because the knowledge of “the why” is one of the main ways I measure a successful campaign.

  9. Courtney Bannon says:

    I think this is a pretty weak campaign for Burger King. They have had huge issues positioning themselves in the fast-food market and I think their energy would be better spent elsewhere. In regards to this specific campaign, I think the burger looks unappetizing. A black burger may appeal to a Japanese audience, but it reminds me of bread that has gone bad. It was smart of them to change the flavor of the bun though.

  10. Elissa Harrison says:

    I found this article to be an interesting read. They are defiantly taking a risk in the burger industry by changing up the colors of the bun. These are the kind of campaigns that will either be a success and people will like the fact Burger King is trying something original. However, on the other hand people could totally hate the coloring and completely turn them off. This campaign reminds me of my childhood when a company decided to change the coloring of ketchup to purple, green, or blue. At first I thought it was the coolest thing ever but once I tried it, the taste was not the same. No it may have not actually tasted any different but the perception of the color totally altered my feel of the ketchup. You no longer see this product at my supermarket. I am curious to see if this burger will have the same effect. Yes, I think Halloween is the best time to launch this burger but I personally think they should have offered an orange burger as well. When you think of Halloween you just don’t think of black but orange as well.

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