Viral Marketing History: BK’s Subservient Chicken Campaign

Posted: February 29, 2012 by lindseydietz in e-marketing
Tags: , , , ,

By Lindsey Dietz, MBA Class of 2012

In week nine, we are required to turn in a short paper examining a unique and innovative digital media campaign. In order to help us get thinking about this I wanted to introduce one of my favorite viral campaigns. This is an oldie but goodie!

Burger King (BK) decided to market their TenderCrisp chicken sandwich since they were commonly known primarily as a burger supplier and wanted to increase market share. BK hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky to help them develop a marketing campaign to increase awareness and sales. The campaign idea was to expand their slogan “Have it Your Way” to include chicken. Historically people associated the slogan with having a burger your way. The campaign was designed to make customers aware that you can also have chicken your way. From this rational the subservient chicken campaign was born.

In April 2004, the campaign went viral with the launch of the subservient chicken website. The website predominately features a video screen with a man dressed in a chicken suite standing in the center of a living room. At the bottom of the screen is a field for text and a submit button. There are prerecorded videos of nearly 400 different commands that the user can ask the chicken to perform. If you type, unusual or unethical command the chicken will approach the camera and shake his finger “no” at you.

I encourage everyone to spend some time experiencing this groundbreaking work at

We have discussed objectives in class regarding campaign success and the metrics used to evaluate e-marketing. Below are some of the reported results of the online campaign.

Statistics from an e-marketing case study show:

  • First day of release the site received one million hits
  • First week the site received 20 million hits
  • March of 2005 the site had received 14 million unique visitors (less than one year after launch).
  • March of 2005 the site it received 396 million total hits
  • Average time spent viewing the site is estimated at 6-7 minuets

The site and online strategy appear to be a wild success with countless creative awards and amazing online activity. Success from online viral campaigns have to translate into business success and tie directly into business goals and objectives. The questions that the business executives at Burger King really wanted answered are: Did the online success translate into increased awareness of the TenderCrisp sandwich? Did it create increased sales? Did the campaign increase market share? The online metrics can be successful without meeting the goals and objectives of the organization as a whole.

Sales statistics from 2004-2007: Info from

  • One month after launch BK reported sales increased an average of 9% a week for the Tender Crisp.
  • BK reported ‘double-digit’ awareness growth of the TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich by 2007. (Site was not taken down)
  • BK reported a substantial increase chicken sandwich sales.
  • BK reported the TenderCrisp did sell better than the Original Chicken Sandwich.

The cutting-edge creative and lightly branded campaign were a success based on the online metrics. In addition, the online success appears to have met the objectives of the strategy to increase sales, awareness and market share. The campaign was successful despite some critics claiming the BK brand was not identifiable enough. Many awards were received for the creative and success of this e-marketing campaign and it will likely go down in history as one of the most successful early viral campaigns.

What do you think?

Does the creative deserve this notoriety?

Do you think the branding was visible enough to drive BK sales?

What are your impressions of viral marketing as a tactic for e-marketers?

  1. Yulia Simkin says:

    I believe the creative deserves every bit of notoriety it got. The branding was visible, and even those who didn’t necessarily relate it to the chicken sandwich related it to the BK name, which creates a positive association with the brand.

  2. michelleblum says:

    They took a risk and it paid off. I think it’s a good lesson that shows how a successful marketing campaign is engaging, not necessarily a sales-pitch. It is still true today.

  3. Jkall says:

    I ❤ Subservient Chicken!

  4. Chris Balfour says:

    6 to 7 minutes on a website? That is an enternity. Excellent strategy and good metrics to the value of the marketing firm.

  5. Krystal Gaynor says:

    Yes the creative deserve this notoriety. As tradition marketing techniques go mostly unnoticed today, it is very important for marketers engage their audience. Granted it may not mean that I’ll go buy a chicken sandwich, it does make BK’s brand more approachable. As their brand identity overall, I think BK is struggling as they continue to change up their campaigns – i.e. waking up with the king, who is now gone. I have liked as of late when they’ve been rolling out new products that they have been offering them free to customers to try. It may not be a cool way to engage the customer, but is it easier for them to translate that to more sales when people get to try the product.

  6. I agree with Chris, an average time of 6 to 7 minutes spent on a site such as this is a really long time. Not only did this viral campaign do an excellent job of engaging the audience, the Subservient Chicken became embedded within popular culture because of the creativity of the idea and its ability to get people talking about it.

  7. Mayuko Yamaura says:

    This is pretty interesting. Personally I haven’t tried BK burgers and sandwiches, so I don’t know which one tastes better, but I would definitely try Tender Crisp sandwich after seeing the promotion because of several reasons.

    First. it is very creating and something memorable. Consumers usually try to find alternatives in their mind first (from thier memory, or previous experiences), before looking for the information outside (ex. menu board). Second, the product price and switching costs to other burgers/ sandwiches were pretty low, so customer would not put too much effort on choosing what they are going to buy, and just order whatever which they have some emotional connections.

    Thus, I think creative promotions like this case work very well when a firm try to have consumers to get positive experience of its products.

    one thing, as Chris and Brooke mentioned, I also wonder where you got the information of the average time spent viewing the site part.

  8. lindseydietz says:

    Hi Mayuko,

    I agree that the time spent on the site seem high but this was statistic was reported in 2007. The post by Igor Beuker was on a blog that features viral campaigns. The information is under the results section in the second paragraph. He received the information from a direct interview with a BK employee. You can find the info here.

  9. Ok, that was awesome. I typed in “this is great” and the chicken bowed. This should be winning some award without a doubt. I will say though I wish that this had been served to me in another fashion other than this blog, only for the reason that I would be more impressed with BK. This could have had more interaction with the population to gain earned advertising from viewers.

  10. Xuan M. Tran says:

    it’s funny that I cant remember this campaign…even though I love Burger King, but maybe at the time it worked (and we got statistics to measure the increase in sales) and Burger King did an excellent job but now a couple years down the road I don’t recall it anymore. So I agree that the campaign worked because it was creative and unique, props for that, but in the long run it’s not as memorable and many consumers still associate Burger King with burgers (and in part it might be because of the name) but I don’t think it’s necessary bad, they’re still doing quite well.

  11. John Chavez says:

    This is funny!!! I did not recalled the campaign right away but i think its really funny!!!

  12. Talal Alswaidan says:

    I have looked for several campaigns that Burger King been through. They have been using the E-marketing and online advertising to engage their target segment on their campaigns. BK’s campaigns are not just for showing what they have in their restaurants. They like to motivate their target people by making them doing something. For the assignment we had in the class I ChosE a campaign made by Burger King as well. The campaign was called the Whopper Sacrifice Campaign; BK promised a coupon for a free hamburger if a Facebook user deleted 10 people from his/her friend’s lists on Facebook.

  13. […] full year before YouTube’s launch. But Burger King had a hit on its hands ten years ago with Subservient Chicken, an interactive website that let you tell a man dressed in a chicken suit to do just about anything […]

  14. Alvin says:

    Hello, you post interesting posts on your blog, you can get much more visits, just type in google for – augo’s
    tube traffic

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