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Brief Published: 13 Jan 2020

Burger King Targets Fandom Friction

In a twist on topical pop-culture marketing, US fast-food chain Burger King has launched activations in the US and Germany that address negative aspects of fandom.

Since the release of the much-hyped film Joker, Bronx residents have had to contend with fans flocking to a set of concrete stairs in the neighbourhood to re-enact an iconic scene from the film. To compensate locals for this commodification of their home – and because the brand "knows clowns can be annoying" – Burger King now offers a free Whopper with online delivery to any postcode in the Bronx.

Meanwhile in Germany, Burger King pitted brand loyalty against fan passions by offering app users a free burger – but only if they were willing to read a spoiler about the upcoming Star Wars feature. The brand promoted the activation with an invitation of online fans to a restaurant plastered in spoilers, researched via leak blogs and spoiler posts. The campaign did not have official Disney affiliation, so all copy was very carefully worded to avoid copyright infringement.

Connecting through the detrimental aspects of pop culture is a savvy way to harness the energy of conversations around cancel culture and toxic fandoms (see Pop Culture Round-Up Spring 2019). However, it is also important to note that wider social issues around gentrification and misrepresentation play into Bronx residents' contempt for the Joker-stairs phenomenon.

For case studies where brands punched up the relevance of topical activations to provide something more relevant than token merchandise, check out Brands as Change Leaders.