Last month, Burger King took out full page ads across the country and went to social media with an open letter to McDonalds urging them to join forces and launch the “McWhopper” for World Peace Day (Sept 21) as an act of ‘peace’ by working together.
It’s a stroke of genius from Burger King whose market share is less than 1/3 of the fast food giant McDonalds but in my view, it’s a little cheeky. Here’s how it played out.
The open letter
It’s important to state my position. This was a campaign. Do they care about World Peace Day? Of course, but this is also marketing, and because of this, it creates a difficult tension for both Burger King and McDonalds to manage. Here’s the letter:
And they backed it up with social media:
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) August 26, 2015
They even made a website (this was one coordinated effort).
But SVP for Global Brand Management at Burger King had this to say:
“We’re being completely transparent with our approach because we want them to take this seriously…It would be amazing if McDonald’s agrees to do this. Let’s make history and generate a lot of noise around Peace Day.”
Pretty soon, World Peace Day got on board. Jeremy Gilley, founder of Peace One Day, praised the initiative, saying:
“Corporate activism on this scale creates mass awareness and awareness creates action and action saves lives.”
The brand explanation
It’s a smart move, using the guise of “World Peace Day” because it helps Burger King achieve the following
1. PR and chatter
People took to social media to talk about this. The public got very excited about the idea and it went viral. Burger King were awarded a lot of good will via social channels because of the peace angle and it’s kind of a cool idea in theory.
2. Riding the coat tails
McDonalds are a giant. They command almost (if not more than) half of the burger market in the USA and almost 1/5 of the entire fast food industry. They are bigger, they have a larger market share and it’s a great opportunity to ride on the coat tails of that by proposing a joint venture which provides Burger King exposure to their customers.
3. Good will
Burger King put McDonalds in a very difficult situation by aligning the idea with World Peace Day. If McDonalds agree, it’s exposure for Burger King to gain access to their customer base, and if they disagree, they come off as a bad sport, openly denouncing peace. A cynical person may see this as a purposefully manipulative play.
To say McDonalds handled this badly is an understatement. I could tell you all the reasons as to why, but instead, I’ll just show you the response and I’m sure you could tell me how they might have done this better.
What would I have done if I were McDonalds?
Anything but what they did. It’s left a lot of disappointed fans out there.
For those feeling a sense of loss for the opportunity to combine the Whopper and the Big Mac, I found this great article that highlights a great point. Do it yourself.