Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The 'Whopper Freakout' Is A User Experience Parlor Trick

You may have seen the latest round of commercials from Burger King. It's called the 'Whopper Freakout' and it stars regular people getting punk'd while trying to order a Whopper. Instead of getting a Whopper, they are given a Wendy's square burger and they get quite cranky. Burger King's conclusion is (taken from their video):


"...So In the end, we accomplished what we set out to prove. That once and for all, the Whopper is, as we thought, America's favorite."

C'mon now. This is the Pepsi challenge without the challenge. You can do this with any experience you switch on people, even bad experiences. There was a project I worked on where the goal was to provide users with a much more legible font. The previous font had been around for ten years and was drawn by hand, pixel by pixel. The font was very ugly and hard to read. Fives and sixes were difficult to distinguish from each other. To solve the problem, I chose a very legible font with a modern design treatment. Instead of getting praise from users, there was the complete opposite. They were not prepared for something "better," they just wanted their ugly, old font. Of course, over time they adjusted and ended up liking the new font, but the lesson was learned on my part. Who knows, maybe some of the Whopper Freakout folks would have started to enjoy Wendy's burgers if this prank went on for a few weeks.

I would be really impressed if they were able to capture people being excited about being given Whoppers at McDonalds or Wendy's. Or better yet, put a Whopper on a plate at Nobu and see what reaction you get from a customer about to spend hundreds of dollars on sushi. America's favorite? More like America's low expectation.

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