Burger King likes being edgy, Schwan says, and it has proved that it doesn’t mind doing things that might make other brands blush. In August, as the company pushed a new spicy version of its chicken fries—a cult favorite the chain returned to the menu after a flood of social media requests—it tweeted a picture of what appeared to be a stack of pornographic magazines. The skin books, their cover images blurred, were set next to a box of Fiery Chicken Fries, and the tweet read: “Hotter than your summer reading list. #fierychickenfries.” Less than a week later, a similar tweet featured blurred-out images of bikini-clad women with this message: “Hotter than your browsing history.”

In an age when office chatter has moved from last night’s TV episode to the latest viral video, part of Burger King’s marketing advantage has been its willingness to move quickly to exploit a constantly churning Internet news cycle. After the company reentered France in 2013, following a 16-year absence, social media there were besieged with negative comments from French customers complaining about long lines at the restaurants. Burger King didn’t waver in the face of the apparent customer service crisis. Instead, it printed some of the “angry tweets” on construction panels at the new locations as proof it had heard the negative feedback. That gambit generated millions of retweets, won a marketing award, and again showed Burger King to be a brand that isn’t afraid to ignore conventional wisdom. “The better it is you understand what you stand for, the easier it is to react quickly,” Schwan says.

Craig Giammona, writing in Bloomberg Business about how the Burger King chain’s bolder, racier viral marketing strategy is increasing sales by using social media to integrate itself into pop culture, and it’s doing it for less money.

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