Adam Gagliardo

Adam Gagliardo on how Burger King brought Chicken Fries back through social media

Threats of boycotting, petitions, and letters to Obama — all fueled by Burger King's Chicken Fries.

Sometimes in real-time marketing, it's about capitalizing on what you say, and sometimes it's about what you don't.

Adam Gagliardo, Director of Digital Marketing and Social Media at Burger King, says all of this passion for the product they discontinued in 2012 was sparked by a BuzzFeed article, “35 Foods From Your Childhood That Are Extinct Now.” People were begging Burger King to bring Chicken Fries back, particularly on social media.

So they dove into the conversations through social listening to build a business case for bringing them back. They analyzed the demographics of people talking about it and compared them to their usual Twitter fans. They found students, pop culture lovers, the socially savvy, and fast food fans.

“We had some work to do with reinvigorating the brand and the conversation and this demographic was in line with where we wanted to go,” he explains in his presentation at our Member Meeting in San Francisco.

But to bring the idea to management, they needed more than just spikes in conversations on social.

They went on a fact-finding mission to compare historical sales data, market research, and brand tracking studies to align this phenomenon to a business argument. And after bringing their case to management multiple times, they finally got the opportunity.

“This was the first time in Burger King's history, since being acquired in 2010 by a new management company, that we launched a product completely through social media.”

“There was already a conversation out there. Our goal was to facilitate it, keep it going, and amplify it.”

The announcement focused mainly on recognizing their fans — the ones who prompted the Chicken Fries comeback in the first place. So they created opportunities for fans to identify with the “movement” like a badge of honor, and stuck with a simple hashtag, #ChickenFriesAreBack.

“Sometimes we overcomplicate hashtags and create new things when we don't have to. This hashtag was a really simple way to make a headline people could share, and it worked to complete a sentence or tweet seamlessly.”

With the new packaging, they included the hashtag and a stylized chicken character to create an image people would share on social. Then, when they shipped the new packaging out, Adam says they purposefully let it get to key restaurants a little earlier to fuel the rumor mill even further.

“Essentially, launching a QSR limited-time-offer is kind of like promoting a movie.”

“You've got to get everybody into the theaters that Friday night and have a really big first box-office weekend.”

To build more hype, they used the opportunity to launch a Snapchat presence and send messages to their super fans. They used promoted posts on Facebook to reach their biggest audience. And on Twitter, they bought a promoted trend and broke the news on launch day using one fan's text to her boyfriend at 4 AM.

Adam says they wrote tweets in the first person, making them easier for people to simply retweet or pass along without asking them to do anything. And on launch day, Chicken Fries were trending in two different places.

But the next day, when #RIPRobinWilliams began trending as well, Adam pulled their ads from Twitter.

With the death of Robin Williams becoming a big conversation on social media, Adam decided it would be best to hold back out of respect — a move applauded by Adweek and others.

“Sometimes in real-time marketing, it's about capitalizing on what you say, and sometimes it's about what you don't.”

“We didn't create this — our fans created it for us,” Adam says.

In the end, Burger King's U.S. sales grew ,and Adam's team earned over one million mentions of Chicken Fries in ten days. He says it's all attributed to their fans' intense participation and love for the product.

chicken fries love

“After all, when's the last time you cried over a piece of chicken?”

Adam has been a member of since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and ask about his favorite place to go in Italy.