Who’s winning Burger Wars – From Genius Marketing to PR Fails

So today I continue my account of ‘Burger Wars’, what is Burger Wars you might ask? Burger Wars is the competition between McDonalds and Burger King. Two giants of the burger world, battling it out for the top spot. How do they do this? Well through their PR and Marketing Campaigns of course. Often making subtle references to their competitor or not so subtle in Burger King’s case.

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I wrote a post on my personal blog around a month ago, called ‘A Day Without a Whopper’ which you can find here. This detailed Burger King’s decision to stop selling their famous ‘Whopper’ burger for the day in aid of their competitor McDonald’s charity campaign. They told all their customers to go to McDonalds and instead buy a Big Mac as profits would go to charity. This came a few years after Burger King had tried to collaborate with McDonalds on the McWhopper, again for charity, but had been rejected by their competitor. Burger King just being charitable? I don’t think so, these were very clever and well thought through marketing campaigns designed to make Burger King look like the bigger person in this clash of titans.

So what’s happened since?

Well I have personally been seeing a lot on Twitter and LinkedIn about various PR and Marketing Campaigns from the giants – both good and bad. So I thought it was only fair that I summarise my findings in a blog post on the latest in this saga.

Genius Marketing

  1. McDonalds – It’s Not the Same Without the ‘M’

This campaign in particular I have seen widely shared across LinkedIn over the past week and it’s one that stuck with me proving how successful it was. McDonalds decided to stamp their branding in some of the busiest places in the world – Airports. Removing their signature letter ‘M’ for the titles of many well-known countries and simply using the slogan ‘It’s Not the Same Without the M’. One thing I loved about this campaign was this simplicity, it’s eye catching and straight to the point, you automatically known what brand it’s for and it makes you think of McDonalds. I know after a long flight, often the first thing I want is a quick and easy meal, so I think the positioning here is great.

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  1. Burger King – The Meltdown

Burger King decided to get on board with sustainability and vowed to stop producing plastic toys in its kid’s meals, as part of an aim to save 320 tonnes of single use plastic. The fast food restaurant now also offers a service where you can bring in your old plastic toys to be melted down and the opening week of this promotion you would receive a free kid’s meal in return for doing so. In typical Burger King style, they didn’t miss the opportunity to take a jibe at McDonald’s by stating their toys where ‘especially’ welcome in their promotional video. For me this is a huge win for Burger King, climate change and sustainability are such a talked about issue at the moment and this is the type of reaction we need from big brands and corporations.

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PR Fails

  1. McDonalds – ‘Bloody Sundae’

I’m sure most people have heard about this by now as it’s been highly reported on and sensitive issue, especially in Northern Ireland. But McDonald’s were the subject of a huge PR Fail, over a Halloween promotion of their Ice Cream in their Portugal stores featuring the slogan ‘Sundae Bloody Sundae’. McDonald’s has since issued a public apology stating that the campaign was not intended to reference historical events and that they sincerely apologise for any offence caused. However, this has not stopped residents of Northern Ireland and further afield being highly and rightly upset by the campaign.

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  1. Burger King – Milkshake Tweet

Burger King came under fire with the ASA recently about a tongue and cheek tweet stating ‘Dear people of Scotland, We’re selling milkshakes all weekend. Have fun.” The tweet came as a response to McDonald’s stopping selling milkshakes at the request of the police, due to politicians such as Nigel Farage being ‘milkshaked’ (having a milkshake thrown over them in the street). The ASA stated that they considered that the ad encourages ‘anti-social behaviour’ and banned the tweet.

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So who’s winning here?

In my eyes Burger King have the lead here, I love how reactive their PR and Marketing is and their constant focus on current issues. I think their constant ‘trolling’ and responding to McDonald’s is pretty humorous and clever and gives them the upper hand here.

 

Hannah Chambers is a final year BSc in Communication Management and Public Relations student at Ulster University. You can find her on – Twitter: @HannahC_PR  and LinkedIn: Hannah Chambers

Burger King Tackles Bullying

When someone says the name Burger King what do you think of?

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Fast food, unhealthy food, convenience? But what about anti bullying?

It is not a connection that I would have originally made myself however, as part of anti-bullying month Burger King did a PR stunt in an undisclosed restaurant in LA where hidden cameras where used and Burger King employees served beaten up Whopper Jr. hamburgers whilst at the same time paid teenage actors are physically bulling another teenage boy.

What is the spot about?

The spot is called “Bullying Jr.,” and was created in honour of National Bullying Prevention Month which took place during the month of October in the US to raise awareness that 30 % of students are bullied each year.

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The stunt was to highlight the sad truth of bullying that in many cases bystanders will not get involved and in this instance it turned out to be true, with only 12% of customers reporting the bullying of the child whilst a staggering 95% of customers reported the ‘bullied’ Whopper Jr. Burger.

The campaign has been viewed more than a million times on YouTube and been retweeted hundreds of thousands of times.

Burger King partnered with US anti-bullying organisation No Bully and the CEO and Founder Nicolas Carlisle had this to say about the ad:  “We know that bullying takes on many forms, physical, verbal, relational and online. But the first step to putting an end to bullying is to take a stand against it…our partnership with the Burger King brand is an example of how brands can bring positive awareness to important issues. You have to start somewhere and they chose to start within.”

Link to the video on YouTube:

Why I think it worked:

Although the ad received some criticism due the obvious product placement and the fact it only confronts one element of bullying, physical bullying, I think that the ad worked very well for a number of reasons:

  • Real Life Situation

It was a real life situation that any of us could find ourselves or have found ourselves in so the relatability factor had you questioning what you would do in that situation and by the end of the ad it may have you questioning what you might do in the future if you are ever in a similar situation. The fact the situation is real life reactions emphasises the figures presented at the end of the experiment.

  • Support Of A Recognised Charity

As the campaign is supported by an anti-bullying organisation, No Bully, this helps ensure that the message gets across without it seeming like another ploy to promote a fast food chain. It further adds authenticity to the facts and figures provided during the ad increasing the strength of the message. By partnering with an anti-bullying organisation this highlights the good that globally recognised brands can do to shine a light on important issues.

  • Emotive

The ad is very emotive as it shows a child getting bullied in the video and that can be hard to watch. Combined by the fact very little people stand in to helps further heights how distressing bullying can be if you are in need of help but people chose to ignore your plea.

The comparison of people’s reactions to the bullying and their ‘bullied’ burger increases the emotion as it is hard to comprehend that people would be more concerned with food being bullied than a child.

The ability to involve people’s emotions and possibly draw on their own experiences is very powerful as it adds an extra dimension to the ad and helps ensure that it is memorable, thought provoking and engaging.

Final Thoughts:

Burger King says it wants its position to be clear.

“The Burger King brand is known for putting the crown on everyone’s head and allowing people to have it their way. Bullying is the exact opposite of that,” the company said.

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At the end of the ad when they speak to the people who intervened when the child was being bullied it was interesting to see their reasoning behind helping – many of them had been bullied as children and wished that someone would have stepped in to help them. Does this then raise the concern that ignorance is bliss? Are we living in a society that if you have not been directly affected by bullying that it is easier for you to choose to ignore it even if it is happening right in front of you? In my opinion the ad does make you consider your own actions and how you might act in the future.

In order for any campaign to be successful the message needs to be clear, memorable and with a call to action and I think that Burger King managed to do all three within this ad.

 

Caoimhe Fitzpatrick is a final year BSc in Communication, Advertising and Marketing student at Ulster University. She can be found on Twitter: @caoimhef_95 / LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/caoimhe-fitzpatrick-0b8682110/