Brands in the News

Burger King’s Marketing Coup

2 Sep 2015  

It has been a long time since I put the phrases “Burger King” and “marketing excellence” together in the same sentence.

For many years, Burger King has been struggling to come up with something notable to say. The brand’s marketing campaigns in recent years included an odd subservient chicken and a creepy King character. The company’s takeover by 3G Capital marked a new low and was followed by massive cost cuts.

So it is a refreshing surprise to note that Burger King has pulled off a marketing coup in the past few days.

As you probably saw, last week Burger King took out full-page ads in newspapers around the country to propose to McDonalds that the two brands should partner to sell the McWhopper on World Peace Day. All the proceeds would go to charity.

This unexpected idea got enormous coverage in the media and sparked conversations around the country.

McDonalds stumbled with a formal and stilted response.

McD Reply

On Sunday, Denny’s took out a full-page ad in the New York Times volunteering to partner with Burger King for the event, since McDonalds had declined the opportunity. This generated a new round of discussion.

The story could continue. Some other small brands have responded. Large players might jump in, too. Subway, a brand in need of a boost if there ever was one, might propose the Sub-Whopper or the Whopper-Way. Wendy’s could jump in with the Whopper Triple, or the Whopper-Frosty combo. Taco Bell might suggest combining the Chalupa and the Whopper to get the Chopper.

All of this does something that is very hard to do: get people talking about the Whopper.

One of the great marketing challenges is bringing excitement to established brands. People like to discuss Tesla and Uber. The Whopper doesn’t have the same inherent level of interest.

To get so many people focused on the Whopper is a triumph. I suspect many folks will think, “I remember the Whopper. That was a pretty good burger. When was the last time I had one? I can’t recall, certainly a long time ago. Maybe I should have one for lunch this week.” This will drive a jump in sales.

Creativity is essential in marketing. The only way to break through is with fresh and unexpected ideas that are connected to your product, like the new marketing effort from Burger King.


1 Response

  1. Great article Tim,
    BK’s aggressive strategy sure isn’t for those business looking to make friends. Very clever how any response MCd’s provided, even if they agreed to partner would be more beneficial for BK… as BK proposed the original idea (* such a noble company), and even the name “McWhopper” strongly favors BK in terms of phonetic recognition.

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