The Marketing Geniuses Behind Burger King and Anheuser-Busch Reveal Their Trade Secrets, to Each Other

Fernando Machado and Marcel Marcondes get candid

Fernando Machado, Burger King (l.), and Marcel Marcondes, Anheuser-Busch InBev

It’s rare to hear unguarded conversations between two of the industry’s leading CMOs. How often do major marketers truly let loose during press interviews or run-of-the-mill conference panels? That’s why Brandweek is asking world-class CMOs to interview one another: to find out what keeps them up at night, why they aren’t using agencies of record anymore and how they are making failure a part of their process. In this issue, we’ve paired Anheuser-Busch InBev’s U.S. CMO, Marcel Marcondes, with Burger King’s CMO, Fernando Machado. (3G Capital’s founders have a stake in A-B InBev; 3G Capital owns Burger King’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International.) The two men worked together at Unilever in Brazil and just partnered on a campaign to revive Budweiser’s beloved “Whassup” with a cameo from the Burger King king himself. If you’re wondering, yes, this conversation, which has been condensed and edited for clarity, kicked off with the two executives shouting “Whassup” at each other. —Kristina Monllos

Fernando Machado, Burger King: What would you say was, in the recent past, the AB InBev campaign that caused the biggest impact? Would you say it was [Bud Light’s] Dilly Dilly?

Marcel Marcondes, Anheuser-Busch InBev: It was Dilly Dilly. We saw this penetrating in all different elements of culture. One great symptom of something really deeply connecting to culture is ramifications in local culture. So Dilly Dilly became Philly Philly in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Eagles won this year in the Super Bowl for the first time, and Philly Philly became their rallying cry. What do you think is your biggest hit recently?

Machado: Probably Google Home of the Whopper. We used a 15-second TV spot one night only to create a global conversation around the Whopper. In essence, it was just a product spot and we ended up [creating conversation] because we were breaking the fourth wall. We were playing with technology. Despite the fact that there were, like, less than a million Google Homes back then, we ended up getting 10 million impressions. [It] made people talk about the product, and it was fun. People truly engaged to the point that people changed the description of the Whopper sandwich on Wikipedia just to make fun of us, which we embrace because we are in the era of engagement and not of interruption.

Marcondes: We don’t have the luxury of time anymore. This changes dramatically the way marketers should get their work done. They jump in whenever they see an opportunity, or it’s too late. How do you see that [affecting the way] you do things at Burger King?

Machado: We like to believe that we are pushing to move at the speed of pop culture. [That] requires you to have your finger on the pulse of pop culture and try to identify what people are going to be talking about and trying to insert the brand in a relevant way to make the brand part of the conversation, sometimes even hijack the conversation itself. It does require a different profile of people, in terms of being in tune with what’s happening out there. It does require a different type of agency in the sense that you need to move really fast.

Marcondes: Here, we’ve been trying to dramatically change the way we get things done. We’re relying much more on social listening versus on traditional research. Also, to be able to connect to modern times, not only do we need to be much more agile, [but] we also need to change the KPIs we track. Maybe the most important KPI to track is what you said is the “talk-ability.” Are people really talking about what we do? This is becoming much more important for us than the traditional KPIs.

This story first appeared in the September 24, 2018, issue of Brandweek.

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