Dynamic Marketing Communiqué

#NeverTrustAClown: Find out how the horror movie “IT” became one brand’s “longest ad ever!” [Thursdays: Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing]

March 24, 2022

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:

If you’re looking for fun, exciting, and interesting ways to connect with your target market and interact with them, we have a recommendation for you: 

Guerrilla Marketing! 

Campaigns of this kind are easy to appreciate and execute, unconventional, buzz-worthy, and sometimes even inexpensive. In fact, I believe you shouldn’t think twice about doing this marketing strategy when it’s in line with your brand’s identity. This can do wonders in boosting your company’s key performance metrics! 

Allow me to share with you an example of a clever, witty, and “unapologetic” guerrilla marketing strategy. 

Find out how one fast food brand threw shade at one of its biggest rivals in the industry and captured the attention of many consumers. Have fun reading! 

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

Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing 

In a past “Gorillas of Guerrilla Marketing” article, we featured the unconventional marketing tactic executed for “IT,” a 2017 horror film based on the novel of the same title by Stephen King. 

There, we highlighted the campaign team’s gimmicks―such as Pennywise’s (IT’s clown antagonist) iconic red balloons floating on sewers across Pennsylvania, US and Sydney, Australia―to capture passersby’s attention and compel them to watch the movie in cinemas. 

True enough, this guerrilla marketing strategy proved effective as it contributed to making the 2017 “IT” movie the highest grossing horror film of all time! 

… 

Did you know that the movie became the subject of another guerrilla marketing stunt that was also conducted in 2017? 

In fact, the film itself (yes, the whole 2-hour film) became part of a fast food brand’s “longest, unapologetic” ad!

— 

Burger King is a multinational fast food chain specializing in hamburgers. The company was founded in 1954 in Miami, Florida and today, it is one of the top 3 hamburger chains in the world. 

Aside from the products it offers, Burger King is known for having dynamic and vibrant marketing strategies. Over the past few years, it has conducted various guerrilla marketing campaigns that drew consumers’ attention to its new or improved products. 

Sometimes, the brand even uses these unconventional marketing stunts to target its rivals… and an example of that is what we have in today’s feature! 

Kings vs. Clowns 

In 2017, Burger King found an epic way to troll a fast food chain rival that has been using a clown mascot since 1963. How? 

By “hi-jacking” a horror film

The brand used the return of Pennywise in the horror movie “IT” to its own advantage during the German pre-premiere on September 27, 2017. 

The title of that campaign? 

#NeverTrustAClown! 

Let’s take a look at how Burger King made the film its “longest ad ever.” 

Prior to the screening of the “IT” pre-premiere in German cinemas, Burger King coordinated with the movie’s production team and cinema operators to ask for permission and execute the campaign effectively. 

By partnering with marketing agency Grabarz & Partner, the fast food brand came up with a LITERAL twist in the horror movie. 

Fast forward to the day of the film screening… 

Many moviegoers shuddered with fear on their seats as they watched Pennywise wreaking havoc by killing innocent children in Derry, Maine. 

The jump scare moments made viewers cover their eyes, grab their seatmates, and even shout inside the cinema. 

Little did they know that another surprise was waiting for them at the end of the film. 

Just before the ending credits, all the lights―including that of the theater screen―went out! 

Oh no… was that Pennywise literally coming to life? A lot of people in the cinema were murmuring and asking one another what happened. 

After a few seconds, the lights went back and the still pitch black screen projected two spotlights right before the ending credits rolled up. 

The spotlights read: 

Oops! We think we know which fast food chain rival Burger King was calling out here. 🤭

This earned a laugh from those who went to the movie’s pre-premiere. All the intense emotions they felt while watching “IT” vanished because seeing Burger King’s guerrilla marketing ad made them feel like everything that happened was a huge bluff. 

After flashing the moral of the story and the brand logo, the fast food chain showed another message on the screen that said: 

“Burger King loving IT.” 

You got us there, Burger King. That was such a clever and witty campaign! 👏

Was Burger King’s “#NeverTrustAClown” campaign effective? 

The not-so-subtle ad generated positive reactions from the audience. It helped release the tension moviegoers felt from the horror film and even became viral online. 

In fact, one of the audience members said, 

“In a horror film you expect anything, but nothing like this.” 

Here are the results of the cheeky one-day guerrilla marketing ad: 

  • After a week, the campaign video got over 100,000 views on YouTube and over 36,000 views on Facebook. It also became Digital Strategy Consulting’s “Viral Video of the Week” during the first week of October 2017. 
  • The hashtag, #NeverTrustAClown,” became trending on Twitter from September 27, 2017 to October 5, 2017. 
  • The guerrilla marketing strategy captured not only the attention of moviegoers and consumers in general but also the attention of various media companies. These included The Drum, AdSpot, Mirror.com, Time.com, Marketing Dive, AdAge, etc. 
  • Burger King’s Q4 2017 sales increased by 8% compared to its Q4 2016 sales. The campaign contributed to this increase because those who watched the “IT” movie’s pre-premiere in Germany received BK coupons, which they used to invite their peers and dine at the fast food restaurant. 

A round of applause for Burger King and Grabarz & Partner! These numbers show that the “#NeverTrustAClown” campaign was successful in reaching out to its target audience. 

As a business owner or marketer, what can you learn from the brand’s guerrilla marketing stunt? 

Never be afraid to take advantage of various resources to make a BIG and lasting impression on your target market

Think about this in the context of Burger King’s “#NeverTrustAClown” campaign. By capitalizing on a movie that’s relevant to the mascot of one of its rivals, the brand came up with a cheeky ad that a lot of Germans found amusing. 

Another thing: Sometimes, it’s the unexpected things that make a lasting brand recall

Viewers of the “IT” movie’s pre-premiere in Germany appreciated the ad because of its feel-good, surprise factor. Having that lighthearted moment before the ending credits helped relieve the audience of intense emotions after watching a horror film. 

Besides, if you’re one of those who attended the movie screening, would you have appreciated the ad if you knew it would appear at the end of the show? 

You wouldn’t, right? You might even feel the same as when someone spoils a movie you haven’t watched yet. 

So… take note of these important elements that contributed to Burger King’s guerrilla marketing success! 

These lessons will help you captivate your target market, compel them to act on your call-to-action, and leave a lasting and positive impression on them as you plan and conduct your own guerrilla marketing campaigns. 

(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 Friday, 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!

Cheers,

Kyle Yu
Head of Marketing
Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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