Food startups are familiar with the effectiveness of handing out free samples of their goods. Trial can be victory with consumers and sales traction for the business. That's why entrepreneurs favor vans, pickups, delivery trucks, mobile kiosks and any other way to get around to where people are gathered in order to get their products into eager mouths.
But Burger King? As it kicks off its celebrity-studded, $750-million brand refresh, BK is deploying a fleet of 30 food trucks to travel among 40 U.S. cities, handing out free samples of new menu items including fresh-fruit smoothies and chicken strips with new dips.
It's an unusual move for such a huge brand, but that may be the kind of tactic required for Burger King to reverse recent trends that have found it falling to No. 3 in QSR sales behind Wendy's and, of course, McDonald's at No. 1.
"One of the things we wanted to do was give people an opportunity to sample what makes Burger King products different," Miguel Piedra, Burger King's VP of global communications, told CNBC about the food truck local marketing effort, which kicks off April 23rd and can be followed on bk.com, and the brand's Twitter and Facebook pages.
"Different" is key for Burger King these days, which now is onwed b a Brazil-based company, 3G Capital. The brand's marketing mojo starring "the King" ran out of gas a while ago. And it has been much slower than rivals both larger and smaller to adapt to today's demand for better-for-you items and kids' fare to go with its regular menu that focuses on young men.
So Burger King's more than two dozen new items also include salads, snack wraps and frappes. The company also is freshening stores and installing digital menu boards.
Meanwhile, however, the chain apparently isn't going to give up all of its old habits. It reportedly is testing a "bacon sundae" in the U.S. and, in Japan, has given customers the option of slathering an extsra 15 strips of bacon on their bacon burgers.
Which King will prevail in the end?