The Road to Brandweek: Burger King’s Fernando Machado on Prioritizing Product Quality

Quality ingredients and a clear brand are top of mind

Fernando Machado, CMO of Burger King
For Machado, the core of good marketing isn't flashy campaigns that win big prizes. Cannes Lions
Headshot of Diana Pearl

Few CMOs have the reputation of Burger King’s Fernando Machado. He’s been the recipient of more than 100 Cannes Lions prizes and led the creation of much-lauded campaigns like Whopper Detour for the fast food giant.

But for Machado, the core of good marketing isn’t flashy campaigns that win big prizes; it’s a strong brand with values and a personality that people can identify with—backed up by high-quality products that a company can stand behind.

The famed marketer is taking the stage at our annual Brandweek event, coming up Nov. 3-6 in Palm Springs, Calif., to talk about his approach to marketing and more. Before Brandweek, we spoke with Machado about industry trends and what he wishes consumers knew about Burger King.

How do you navigate your marketing and advertising in the age of rapid consumer feedback?
It all starts with a clear definition of the brand positioning, brand values and personality. We always aim to do work that stands out. We don’t have the largest budget, so anything we do needs to stand out and be unequivocally linked to our brand. If we only compete on budget, we will lose the battle even before it starts.

One thing we know is that anything that stands out will get some level of criticism. That’s why it is so important to know what the brand stands for. I mean, if you have the conviction that what you are doing is on brand, if you get some negative feedback then you should be fine. We are humble enough to always evaluate the outcome of our marketing and advertising. We are always learning and aiming to do better every time. But some negative feedback is an intrinsic part of the journey of creating something different and that stands out.

What’s the biggest buzzword in the industry today, and how is the company preparing for it?
I would say that our industry is full of buzzwords. I believe that in the recent past “AI” is probably ranking pretty high. And surely we do have some projects that involve AI.

But our briefs and projects don’t start with the buzzword in itself. Usually buzzwords point to means to an end and not the end in itself. Sometimes people tend to jump on trends without even reflecting too much about what their objective really is. So our company is preparing for the future not by jumping on buzzwords but by trying to understand how we can better serve and connect to our guests. Surely technology has a really important role to play.

But it all starts with our guests’ and fans’ needs, whether they are conscious or unconscious.

Name one important thing about your brand that you wish more consumers knew.
At Burger King, we are working really hard to do the right thing when it comes to our products. That includes quality of the ingredients, nutrition, environmental sustainability and responsible sourcing. We believe these things are critical for the long-term success of the brand. We have accomplished a lot already. But it’s a journey.

When I tell people that all our burgers and sides are free of colors and flavors that come from artificial sources, some people are surprised by it. When I tell people that our beef patties are 100% beef and have no preservatives, no filler and no colors and flavors from artificial sources, some people express disbelief. So, we clearly need to do a better job communicating these things and continue to work to keep raising the bar when it comes to our product quality.

What’s the biggest change your company or your industry has had to contend with in the last two years?
The past two years have been marked by the rise in the importance of technology. When it comes to quick-service restaurants, home delivery, mobile apps, loyalty programs, self-ordering kiosks [and] personalization, among others, were not so prevalent two to three years ago. Well, at least not so prevalent in a consistent way in all markets across the globe. We are investing a lot behind technology to improve guest service and better connect to our fans.

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@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.