Call me a poor excuse for a professional content producer, but until this week I had no idea that there was such a deep social schism between Big Mac munchers and Whopper scoffers.
So one can only imagine my bewilderment at the uproar in the 4mediarelations office this week when Burger King launched their all-conquering ‘McWhopper’ campaign, a collaboration offer to McDonald’s to create a joint sandwich.
You can read the whole story in much greater detail here, but the basic idea was:
“Hey, McDonald’s let’s put our rivalry aside for Peace One Day and join forces to raise money for charity.”
The proposal included using the top half of a Big Mac, the bottom half of a Whopper, half-and-half branded staff uniforms, and an Atlanta location equidistant from the two companies’ global headquarters in Chicago and Miami, respectively.
Maybe unsurprisingly, the #McWhopperProposal was met with short shrift by the Golden Arches, with an official press release dismissing the idea within hours of the campaign going live.
However, the aftermath has demonstrated how, through expert execution and careful planning, Burger King painted its greatest enemy into a corner and toyed with it like a cat playing with a mouse before dinner.
Their strategy was multi-layered, brimming with guile and precision and played on their competitor’s hostility.
Firstly, despite what a lot of commentators have said, I’d definitely question the suggestion that McDonald’s displayed no personality with their somewhat curt response. Far from it, the issue was that the personality was basically the blue-haired lawyer from The Simpsons, holding up a briefcase and spoiling everyone’s fun.
One of the golden rules of public relations is that human beings don’t like buying from faceless organisations or their legal departments, we are instinctively drawn to organisations which present themselves with personality and a human identity.
In dismissing Burger King’s olive branch out-of-hand via an official statement, McDonald’s gave the impression of a disgruntled ex-player walking onto the pitch during a charity football match, sticking a pin in the ball and then walking off.
Their refusal to be part of an initiative or conversation that they themselves did not initiate, they not only painted themselves as party-poopers, they allowed their biggest competitor to enjoy the full swell of good will.
Testament to how well Burger King did, if my Twitter feed is to be believed, there is now not a single person in the western world with a camera and plenty of free time who has not made a DIY McWhopper. And just to compound the embarrassment for Mackie D’s, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that the Mac half of this unholy hybrid is discernibly smaller than the, apparently aptly-named, Whopper section.
Now, for me, the really brilliant thing about this, from a PR perspective, is that I am utterly and completely convinced that BK knew that this is what would happen.
They knew that McDonald’s wouldn’t bite, meaning their greatest rival would have no input into the construction of an ‘official’ collaborative sandwich, prompting the public to make their own and expose the contrasting sizes of the two existing products.
But in a wider sense, the whole campaign, to me anyway, all feels incredibly deliberate, which merely accentuates how masterfully BK played their initial moves.
This seemingly spontaneous act has obviously, in reality, taken months of planning. The McWhopper.com web page (which, on a side note, may well be one of the most beautifully-constructed pages I’ve ever seen) has been painstakingly crafted, tested and honed ahead of launch, while their attention to detail in pinpointing a location and charitable cause didn’t happen overnight.
These details allowed Burger King to suggest, quite brilliantly, that a) Burger King want this to happen b) Burger King can make this happen c) McDonald’s are the only people preventing millions of dollars being raised for charity.
By Jamie Stanley