Fernando Machado explains why ‘Moldy Whopper’ is good brand building on latest IOFA podcast

Fernando Machado—the man in charge of the Burger King, Popeye’s and Tim Hortons brands—is one of the most famous marketers in the world right now.

That’s because the CMO of Restaurant Brands International has a reputation for doing work that most creatives are desperate to do: bold, breakthrough and, if we’re being honest, award-winning.

That reputation is why Rethink chief creative officer Aaron Starkman invited him to appear on his podcast It’s Only Fucking Advertising. The episode was released this week, although it was recorded before the COVID crisis really took hold.

Starkman started IOFA so he could talk to famous creatives from around the world, not marketers. But Machado, he says, is “an ad nerd trapped in a global CMO’s body.”

The pair talk about Machado’s early days in business (from mechanical engineer to marketer); how he came to value big, daring creative ideas; his favourite work at Unilever (Dove Sketches); his thoughts on lawyers, and what he thinks about research: “I don’t have a problem doing research. I have a problem with people who cover their asses with research and just blindly do whatever the research says.”

Machado also spoke candidly and at length about what had been one of the ad stories of the year pre-COVID, the “Moldy Whopper.” He explained where the idea came from (three different agencies), how it got made, and most importantly why it is good long-term for the brand (though of course not everyone agrees) by communicating how much Burger King has done to remove artificial ingredients from its menu.

“If you’re a CMO you have two jobs: you need to sell, because I don’t think any CMO will survive six months a year if the brand is not going up, and you need to prepare the brand for the long run. Do you think that fast food will have artificial ingredients five years, 10 years from now? No, I don’t. So my job as a CMO is to bridge the present to the future,” he said.

“The objective was to shift brand attributes around the fact that Burger King has high quality ingredients; increased consideration to visit, because you’re diminishing a barrier—which is artificial ingredients in the product; [and] awareness of the fact that you don’t have artificial ingredients. So I was measuring that. I measure sales, too. Not everything has [the] objection of selling in the short term.”

If your only objective is short-term sales, you just need promotion, he said. “Do a BOGO, buy one, get one free, and they will sell in the short-term. But how do you sell more next year.”

The Machado episode of IPFA is available at Apple now.

David Brown