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A Phantom Innovation can still be a Winner

On 1st April 1998 Burger King published a full page advertisement in USA Today announcing an innovative new product, the “Left-Handed Whopper.”  The advertisement stated that the new whopper had the same ingredients as the original Whopper (bun, lettuce, tomato, hamburger etc.).   However, the left-handed whopper had “all condiments rotated 180 degrees. ”  The resulting benefit for left-handers was that most of the condiments would “skew to the left, thereby reducing the amount of lettuce and other toppings from spilling out the right side of the burger.”  See the official UK press release.

Jim Watkins, senior vice president for marketing at Burger King, claimed that the new sandwich was the “ultimate ‘HAVE IT YOUR WAY’ for left-handed customers.”   The next day Burger King issued a follow-up press release revealing that the Left-Handed Whopper was a hoax and that thousands of customers had gone into restaurants to request the new item. Meanwhile many others requested their own ‘right handed’ version.

This hoax generated considerable media coverage and goodwill for Burger King.  It is listed as one of the best all time April Fool’s jokes.  In this case Burger King did not just rotate their product by 180 degrees – they rotated their marketing and communication to a similar extent and with great results.

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