Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

“Clowns can be annoying.” – The KING is taking over The Bronx’s #JokerStairs in this 2020 stunt! [Thursday: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

August 17, 2023

Miles Everson’s Business Builder Daily speaks to the heart of what great marketers, business leaders, and other professionals need to succeed in advertising, communications, managing their investments, career strategy, and more.

A Note from Miles Everson:

Are you familiar with guerrilla marketing?

For those of you who aren’t yet, guerrilla marketing is a non-traditional marketing approach that involves conducting creative and fun strategies to promote a product or brand.

Personally, I enjoy reading articles about such campaigns. They remind me that advertising a brand or introducing a new product doesn’t necessarily have to follow conventional routes.

Ready to know more about today’s guerrilla marketing topic?

Continue reading the article below.

Miles Everson
CEO, MBO Partners
Chairman of the Advisory Board, The I Institute

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing

In October 2019, the first promotional images were released for “Joker,” the Todd Philipps-directed film about the kind of clown people wouldn’t want to hire for a kiddie birthday party.

In the photos, Joaquin Phoenix’s character appeared in a red suit, yellow vest, and white face paint on a steep flight of stairs.

That same staircase was featured in the film’s trailer, as the Joker dances, hip thrusts, and high kicks his way down. Although the story was set in the fictional Gotham City, the real-life staircase is in The Bronx, New York.

During that time, locals had quite a hard time dodging a seemingly endless parade of Instagram photographers, “amateur Jokers” or people who imitated the Joker’s costume, and anyone who was willing to use the #Jokerstairs hashtag in their social media posts.

In fact, many of The Bronx’s locals were complaining about feeling inconvenienced and having their everyday lives turned into a “glorified photoshoot.”

Burger King understood what a pain that was for The Bronx residents, who were experiencing the struggles until January 2020. So, to lighten up people’s moods, the company made a guerrilla marketing stunt out of the #Jokerstairs phenomenon titled…

The “King Stairs” campaign!

In the first week of January 2020, Burger King announced its partnership with Uber Eats to give away FREE Whoppers to The Bronx locals. All residents had to do was use the code “KINGSTAIRS” when placing a Burger King order via Uber Eats.

Physical and digital posters of the promotional giveaway were distributed on Burger King’s social media pages and around the iconic staircase. This enabled residents to know about the guerrilla marketing stunt and forget about their annoyance even just for a little while.

Here’s what was written on the posters:

“Dear Bronx, we know clowns can be annoying. If you live in The Bronx, use the code KINGSTAIRS on the Uber Eats app, get a free Whopper, and put on a happy face.”

Oops! It looks like Burger King had taken a jab at one of its rivals again through this campaign. If you know, you know!

Maybe Burger King should have called its promotional giveaway for this campaign “Whoops-er” instead of “Whopper.” Very witty, indeed!

The promotional Whopper giveaway ran from January 1 to 12, 2020.

Was Burger King’s “King Stairs” guerrilla marketing stunt effective?

Many of The Bronx residents appreciated Burger King’s move to make it up for the inconveniences they experienced by giving away FREE Whoppers. A lot of them literally had a smile on their faces when they read the poster’s caption and received the fast food brand’s giveaways.

Below are the results of the campaign:

  • Over 100,000 FREE Whoppers were given to those who ordered via the Uber Eats app from January 1 to 12, 2020.
  • The “King Stairs” campaign garnered around 424 million media impressions throughout its duration.
  • Burger King recorded a total of USD 4.7 million in earned media through the campaign.
  • The campaign was featured in various media publications like Fox NewsFast CompanyNBC New YorkThe Daily Mail, and more.
  • The campaign earned a merit at the 2021 The One Show Awards.

These results show that Burger King’s guerrilla marketing stunt became a hit. The company was not only able to appease displeased locals but also captured the attention of people worldwide through its witty campaign.

Kudos, Burger King and Uber Eats!

There are at least 2 things you can learn from Burger King’s “King Stairs” campaign:

  • Localizing could be seen as a form of “empathizing” with your target audience

To make your brand’s swing at localization truly memorable to those who matter, a.k.a. your target audience, don’t settle for surface-level tweaks to a tagline or billboard. Instead, keep an empathetic eye on local news or trends that are relevant to your brand’s consumers. 

Burger King’s example proves no brand is too big to pinpoint a specific phenomenon. So, ask yourself: “How can I infuse my brand’s localization strategy with tangible empathy?” 

This will enable you to come up with ideas that are similar to Burger King’s. 

  • Taking things from online to offline

Viral phenomena are less likely to stay just online and often find their way into the offline world in unexpected ways. Because of that, you have to keep yourself abreast of the online cultural zeitgeist and opportunities for your brand to translate it into a tangible and relevant offering for customers. 

If an Internet craze hasn’t already had an online effect, could your brand create a complementary offline component? 

This isn’t about trying the latest online challenge to be “down with the kids.” The best of these crossovers will deliver clear values and experiences to your customers.

Get inspired with Burger King’s clever guerrilla marketing stunt!

Sometimes, you have to take responsibility for appeasing your target market even if your brand is not the one to blame in the first place. This will make consumers see your business in a positive light, which could eventually lead to more attention, sales, followers, etc.

It’s your time to shine! What can you do to put a smile on your target market’s faces?

(This article is from The Business Builder Daily, a newsletter by The I Institute in collaboration with MBO Partners.)

About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing”

Jay Conrad Levinson (1984) said that Guerrilla Marketing “works because it’s simple to appreciate, easy to execute, and inexpensive.”

Guerrilla Marketing is unconventional.

Looking beyond the traditional ways of advertising, marketers, and advertisers need to spice things up in order for their brand to have campaigns that not only make an impact but also stick to their target market’s mind.

Guerrilla Marketing usually aims to have direct contact with consumers.

This type of direct contact should spark an emotional reaction that leads to consumers effectively remembering the brand.

It’s about making a big impression and making that impression last a long time (if not forever).

Guerrilla Marketing can be inexpensive.

The effect of this is being able to create a buzz around the brand, and the strategy used to market it. Almost everything is passed around through word-of-mouth.

Word-of-mouth is one of the greatest outcomes and it usually doesn’t cost anything.

This is every business’ or brand’s dream!

Every Thursday, we publish tips, examples, and other useful content on unconventional ways of marketing and promotion.

Learn more about how to grab your target market’s attention and make an amazing first and lasting impression without having to spend a lot of money.

Businesses don’t really need to spend much for a guerrilla campaign. You do not need a big budget to be successful. You just need creativity and a good imagination.

Hope you’ve found this week’s guerrilla marketing insight interesting and helpful.

Stay tuned for next Thursday’s Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing!


Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
Powered by Valens Research

View All

You don’t have access to the Valens Research Premium Application.

To get access to our best content including the highly regarded Conviction Long List and Market Phase Cycle macro newsletter, please contact our Client Relations Team at 630-841-0683 or email client.relations@valens-research.com.

Please fill out the fields below so that our client relations team can contact you

Or contact our Client Relationship Team at 630-841-0683