Global Power Players: Fernando Machado, Burger King, CMO

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The late, great David Ogilvy said that without a big idea at the core, your advertising will pass through the minds of consumers like “a ship in the night.” The old adage remains true in the eyes of Fernando Machado, who until just a few years ago looked toward Burger King’s brand work adorningly; albeit from afar. Now, as Chief Marketing Officer he’s been handed a chance to create a legacy of his own. Since his arrival at the sixth largest fast-food chain, Burger King has received numerous awards for work like its infamous use of Google Home. As he gears up to take the stage at Advertising Week APAC, he shared some thoughts on his approach to standing out. Indeed, the subject of his session, ‘be afraid, very afraid, but do it anyway’ seemingly summarises his willingness to continue Burger King’s tradition of relentless creativity.

AW360: Burger King has been known to use classic media channels to create memorable campaigns, what is it about newspapers that excites you?

FERNANDO MACHADO: At Burger King, ideas come first. We’re constantly searching for great ideas that connect our brand to people and land our key brand attributes. The channels we choose are then based on those ideas. In my view, despite sounding contradictory, there’s something cool about traditional media, especially newspapers. There’s something about them that makes an idea come across markedly more serious and credible. Even Facebook used traditional media/ newspapers when they apologized for their “breach of trust”.

Our industry has a habit of overcomplicating media strategy. In many cases, when that happens, it’s because the discussion started with the media strategy and not the idea itself.

AW360: When it comes to traditional channels, what kind of strategic focus do you need compared to digital?

FERNANDO MACHADO: Our industry has a habit of overcomplicating media strategy. In many cases, when that happens, it’s because the discussion started with the media strategy and not the idea itself. We focus on the idea first. And second. And third. After we nail the idea, we discuss the media strategy. In our most famous campaigns, we sometimes use traditional media to trigger social media and PR. And sometimes we use social media to have the same effect. It really depends on the idea. So, the focus is not on a media discussion, the focus is on the idea and the idea only.

AW360: What channels will become increasingly important for Burger King over the next 5 years?

FERNANDO MACHADO: It’s hard to answer this question without sounding cliché. Of course, digital and social media will continue to grow. With that said, I believe that what we call ‘traditional media’ will still be there, maybe in an evolved form. With that in mind, we will continue to focus on mastering mainstream channels while experimenting and learning how to get the best return on investment (and engagement).

AW360: The biggest enemy of change is resistance – how, in a time of constant change, can leaders encourage employees to embrace change and not resist it?

FERNANDO MACHADO: By championing a vision. By bringing people along on the journey. By always explaining the rationale of things and leading by example.

AW360: What have the biggest marketing challenges been for Burger King?

FERNANDO MACHADO: All brands in super competitive categories face challenges. Lots of them. We always have the challenge to keep pushing the boundaries in terms of creativity.

We are not the top spender in our category, so everything we do needs to stand out and be quintessentially Burger King. We also need to make sure we deliver against the basic fundamentals of our market, such as constantly increasing the quality of our food, convenience (presence everywhere), value (range of options from affordable to premium) and service (great in-restaurant experience).

AW360: Around technology, how as a marketer do you ensure you stay on top of the latest developments?

FERNANDO MACHADO: I read a lot about technology, but I am not hugely concerned about knowing anything and everything. We have great partner agencies. We have a great marketing team.

AW360: What advice do you have for people just starting their career?

FERNANDO MACHADO: Be obsessed with what you do. If you aren’t, find something to be obsessive over.

AW360: Burger King’s campaigns have been brilliantly disruptive. You always seem to use the press to great advantage. What’s the key to ensuring it doesn’t back re?

FERNANDO MACHADO: We always enter the ideas through the brand lens. We are not looking for disruption for the sake of disruption. We are looking for ideas which will stand out and help land our brand positioning. Honestly, we are not so concerned about ideas “back ring”. We manage the brand with a clear vision and clear set of principles. If something doesn’t go well, we learn a lesson and move on. We don’t allow fear to paralyze us. In fact, we know the ideas which work the best tend to make us uncomfortable at first.

Fernando Machado will be speaking at Advertising Week APAC commencing in Sydney July 30 – August 2. For details of his session and the rest of the AW APAC lineup head over to the schedule here. Click here if you’d like to attend.

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