Why Did Quiznos’ Burning Man Parody Video Get 2.1 Million Views?

Why are con­sumers lov­ing and engag­ing with the Quiznos Burn Tri­als video?

Greg Jarboe By Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR. Join the discussion » 0 comments

Quiznos ignit­ed head­lines with its Burn­ing Man par­o­dy video. So why the Quiznos par­o­dy is get­ting so many views, likes, com­ments, and shares?


If you haven’t seen “Burn Tri­als — Out of the Maze and onto the Playa” yet, spend 2 min­utes and 45 sec­onds to watch it now. As the descrip­tion of the lat­est Toasty.TV orig­i­nal par­o­dy reveals, “What hap­pens when you send the char­ac­ters from The Maze Run­ner: The Scorch Tri­als to an over­crowd­ed music fes­ti­val in the desert? You’ll have to wit­ness it for your­self. Things will get toasty on The Playa. Wel­come to the #Burn­Tri­als!”

Now, accord­ing to an arti­cle by Geor­gia Wells in The Wall Street Journal’s Dig­its Blog, “Now the Burn­ing Man orga­ni­za­tion wants Quiznos to remove the images of the burn­ing wood­en man-shaped sculp­ture and hip­pie city, among oth­er items.” In the arti­cle, Burn­ing Man senior advis­er Jim Gra­ham is quot­ed as say­ing, “Peo­ple at our office thought the video was clever and fun­ny, but they used our intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty to sell some­thing.”

He also not­ed that Burn­ing Man is not threat­en­ing to sue Quiznos, con­trary to some media reports. The two orga­ni­za­tions are now in dis­cus­sions. Accord­ing to Wells, “Quiznos didn’t respond to ques­tions about the ker­fuf­fle.”

Since it is entire­ly pos­si­ble that your brand may be par­o­died some­day, this is a ker­fuf­fle that you will want to mon­i­tor close­ly. Here’s some addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion that is worth know­ing.

Measuring Quiznos’ Success

Burn Tri­als” was uploaded Sept. 8 and already has more than 2.1 mil­lion views. It has received 2,769 Likes and 302 Dis­likes.

If you look at the video sta­tis­tics for “Burn Tri­als,” you’ll see that time watched is 7 years. It’s dri­ven 106 sub­scrip­tions to the Quiznos Toast­er chan­nel, Toasty.TV, on YouTube. And the video has been shared to social media 3,680 times.

Burn Trials video statistics

It has 469 com­ments. Here are half a dozen of the top com­ments to give you an idea of what view­ers think about the video:

  • This was great. Can’t believe it came from a Cor­po­rate social media account.”
  • This was the most epic com­mer­cial ever.”
  • I hate Burn­ing Man and a sand­wich com­mer­cial just encom­passed all the rea­sons why.”
  • If Burn­ing Man hates ‘com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion’ so much that it’s will­ing to sue Quiznos over it for mak­ing this par­o­dy, why do tick­ets to the fes­ti­val cost $400?”
  • Best par­o­dy ever. ‘You wouldn’t last one day out in the scorch.’”
  • I’ve been to Burn­ing Man 8 times and this is one of the best things I’ve seen. It’s trumped only by the episode where Mal­colm in the Mid­dle goes to Burn­ing Man. Check that out if you like this.”

In addi­tion, “Burn Tri­als” has done won­ders for the Quiznos Toast­er chan­nel on YouTube. Accord­ing to Tubu­lar Labs, the Growth Graphs of the Quiznos Toast­er start­ed to rock­et upwards on Sep­tem­ber 9, the day after “Burn Tri­als” was pub­lished.

Quiznos Toaster growth graphs

Why Video Is A Key Element of Quiznos’ Content Strategy

Quiznos has made video con­tent a big part of its strat­e­gy to reach its core audi­ence: men from their teens to their 30s, accord­ing to Tim Kraus, direc­tor of inter­ac­tive and inno­va­tion at Quiznos.

We want to make sure wher­ev­er our audi­ence is going, that’s where we have to go,” Kraus told Enter­pre­neur. “So if they switch to con­sum­ing video con­tent on their mobile device, or their tablet or their desk­top com­put­er, that’s where we have to be as a brand.”

Toasty.TV has been a large part of Quiznos’ con­tent mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy since 2014. Aside from YouTube engage­ment, their efforts appear to be dri­ving peo­ple to search for infor­ma­tion about store loca­tions, espe­cial­ly around the launch of their videos.

We knew we were tak­ing a risk as a brand, we knew we were shift­ing dol­lars away from TV into dig­i­tal and we’ve been tremen­dous­ly hap­py with the risk that we took,” Chris Ruszkows­ki, Quiznos’ VP of mar­ket­ing, told AdWeek. “The response has been great. Mil­len­ni­als fol­low, like, sub­scribe and share and we want­ed to be part of that con­ver­sa­tion, and doing con­tent like this allows us to be part of that con­ver­sa­tion.”

Quiznos Has A Flare For Parody

At the end of “Burn Tri­als” are a cou­ple of end cards (a.k.a., end slates) that encour­age view­ers to watch more videos.

The first is “The Waze Run­ner | A #ToastyTV Par­o­dy @Quiznos.” Pub­lished Sept. 15, 2014, it has almost 955,000 views. As its descrip­tion explains, “Inspired by the nav­i­ga­tion app that lets you out­smart traf­fic, and the upcom­ing Maze Run­ner movie, THE WAZE RUNNER tells the sto­ry of teenagers try­ing to nav­i­gate a killer maze, with Waze.”

The sec­ond takes view­ers to “STARTOURAGE: The Four­some Awak­ens | Quiznos | Toasty.tv.” Pub­lished April 16, it has more than 1.4 mil­lion views. As its descrip­tion explains, “See what hap­pens when Hollywood’s most famous fake movie star directs a new episode for the galaxy’s most beloved fran­chise of all time. Pre­sent­ing Star­Tourage, a new inter­galac­tic spoof from the toasty minds at Quiznos. May The Farce Be With You. #Star­tourage #ToastyTV #Quiznos.”

You don’t need to be a lawyer to rec­og­nize all three of these videos are par­o­dies.

Although I’m not a lawyer, I’m not a pot­ted plant, either. So, here’s what we know about par­o­dy:

Although a par­o­dy can be con­sid­ered a deriv­a­tive work under Unit­ed States Copy­right Law, it can be pro­tect­ed from claims by the copy­right own­er of the orig­i­nal work under the fair use doc­trine, which is cod­i­fied in Title 17 of the Unit­ed States Code § 107. The Supreme Court of the Unit­ed States stat­ed that par­o­dy “is the use of some ele­ments of a pri­or author’s com­po­si­tion to cre­ate a new one that, at least in part, com­ments on that author’s works”. That com­men­tary func­tion pro­vides some jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for use of the old­er work.

So, it doesn’t hurt for Burn­ing Man to ask Quiznos to remove the images of the burn­ing wood­en man-shaped sculp­ture and hip­pie city, among oth­er items. But, the Quiznos par­o­dy appears to be pro­tect­ed under the fair use doc­trine – par­tic­u­lar­ly because “Burn Tri­als” is a com­men­tary.

As the main char­ac­ter observes, “They lied to us. They said it was an anti-estab­lish­ment soci­ety based on self-expres­sion, but it’s become a place for rich peo­ple to check off their buck­et list.”

That’s why the Quiznos par­o­dy is get­ting so many views, likes, com­ments, and shares. View­ers agree with the com­men­tary.

Now, if your brand faces a sim­i­lar ker­fuf­fle down the road, roll with the punch and let peo­ple know you can take a joke. That will do more to enhance your brand than call­ing in a small army of lawyers.


What do you think of Quiznos’ lat­est par­o­dy video, and its dig­i­tal video mar­ket­ing strat­e­gy?

Greg Jarboe

Written by Greg Jarboe

President, SEO-PR

Greg Jarboe is President and co-founder of SEO-PR, an award-winning content marketing agency that was founded in 2003. He’s the author of YouTube and Video Marketing and also a contributor to The Art of SEO, Strategic Digital Marketing, Complete B2B Online Marketing, and Enchantment. He’s profiled in the book Online Marketing Heroes, a frequent speaker at industry conferences, and writes for Tubular Insights and The SEM Post. He’s an executive education instructor at the Rutgers Business School and the Video and Content Marketing faculty chair at Simplilearn.

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