Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why McDonald's couldn't accept Burger King's peace offering #McWhopper

I wrote early yesterday about Burger King's brilliant PR coup for Peace One Day: A challenge to arch(es) rival McDonald's to build a combination of their two classic burgers as a symbol for peace.

The ploy worked, not just because it picked up endless press, but because the response from McDonald's was cold and patronizing.

But while the wording of the response was a PR failure, there are several reasons that McDonald's basically had to turn BK down.

1. When you're #1, you don't acknowledge competition

McDonald's has been faltering lately, but they still own the category of fast food burgers. By making this proposal to the Golden Arches, Burger King was putting the two brands of equal footing. This would be unacceptable to the traditional top dog brand strategy, which is to not acknowledge the competition. There might be some exceptions, but in general McDonald's expresses its #1 status by pretending it has no competitors, just as Coke doesn't talk about Pepsi. It's up to the competitors to take down the kind of the hill.

2. The McWhopper makes one seem better than the other.

Watch this video from the campaign microsite:

Note the subtleties. BK didn't call the Big Mac/Whopper blend the "Big Whopper." That's because the very name Whopper is a reminder that the burger, introduced in 1957 (10 years before the Big Mac) is about "bigger."

Now look at the proposed burger:

The Big Mac upper half is dwarfed by the Whopper bottom half. This is a shot at the Big Mac brand.

Now, look at how the ingredients are described:

By using only one of the "two all beef patties" and 2/3 of the 3-layer bun, they almost yell out Wendy's old line of "Where's The Beef?" The Whopper ingredients, however, focus on fresh toppings and "flame grilled" patty.

3. Even the packaging is skewed

Who gets the most real estate on the box?

4. There's already been a "McWhopper" 

Thirty years ago, McDonald's genuinely tried to imitate the Whopper with the utter failure of the McDLT.

I was only 15 at the time, but I distinctly recall referring to the obvious imitation as a "McWhopper." Maybe it was just me, but even the proposed mashup burger brought back memories of that disaster.

So, to accept this challenge as stated, McDonald's would have to first acknowledge Burger King as an equal rival, then deal with the various slights that BK made against their signature brand.

The stunt, which according to AdFreak was a collaborative effort between Y&R in New Zealand, Code & Theory, Alison Brod Public Relations, The David Agency, Rock Orange, Turner Duckworth and Horizon, was pure brilliance. It was also designed to "fail" in getting McDonald's onboard. However, I'm not sure that the agencies and the BK fold could have anticipated how poorly MCDonald's would fumble the response.

Regardless, it was a huge success in building up Burger King's cool, as well as making Peace One Day a topic of conversation.

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