Burger King’s Rotten Meat – A Digital Marketing Horror Story


Have you seen the recent image of a rotten Whopper, with mold and fungus growing out of the bun, meat, cheese, and vegetables? I hope you didn’t see it before lunch because it would ruin your appetite and make you think of doing a juice cleanse. Why, Burger King, why?

Burger King, and their ad agency, had great intentions going into this digital marketing campaign. Internally, they said, “let’s focus on how we use real ingredients, less preservatives, and show that we’re real.” This is probably in response to those old McDonald’s pictures of supposed 30-day non-rotting sandwiches that someone took in their dorm room. Let’s be real, Burger King showcased rotting meat for 20+ seconds of their thirty second spot. And the final still image is the disgusting sandwich. 

You know what’s still in my mind? It’s not the fresh ingredients. It’s a rotting sandwich. I have not thought about the “less preservatives” once since the campaign launched.

I’m sure it will be an award winning campaign for the creative agency that produced the spot. It factors in actual concerns about our food, where it’s sourced, and how it’s produced. The video was even interesting, showing the slow decay of the food over days, but I’m not quite sure they thought about the consumer. I wonder if they did market research with the spot prior to launch.

People are guided by images, and that’s what they remember too. According to MDG Advertising, “people remember only 10% of information three days after hearing it, on average; adding a picture can improve recall to 65%.”

Burger King was aiming to be genuine about their product and the quality, but they missed the mark by focusing primarily on the rotting meat. Even if all food eventually rots, people don’t want to picture their future dinner like that. 

Burger King, your nightmare sandwich is not for me. It’s a digital marketing fail in my opinion.

RJ Huebert
RJ Huebert is the founder and managing principal of HBT Digital Consulting, a Pittsburgh-based business. A digital marketing professional, he specializes in search engine and social media marketing for B-to-C companies looking for lead generation and online optimization. He is also the co-race director for three Tampa Bay 5K events called The Great Mother’s Day Race, The Great Father’s Day Race, and The Great Gay 5K. The races have had over 12,000 participants and have raised over $7,000 for local charities since 2012. Previously, RJ was the marketing director for a world-wide market research firm, and has held management roles in verticals including healthcare, banking, and for-profit education. Helping local business succeed online is his daily passion, launching 5K events gives him joy, and contributing to the Pittsburgh business scene inspires him. RJ earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pittsburgh and Master of Arts from the University of South Florida, focusing on Strategic Communication Management. Currently, he sits on the American Marketing Association Board of Directors - Pittsburgh Chapter. He resides in Pittsburgh, PA with his wife Taylor, chocolate Lab Coco, and a Jack Russel Terrier named Rosie.