Burger King Earning Customers With This “Genius” Strategy

The fast-food market is tough, crowded, and very highly competitive. As younger adults trended more toward fast-casual dining or restaurants touting “healthier” menu options for the past decade, that tight market has gotten even tighter. That leaves even fast food titans looking for creative ways to get people thinking about their brand. And now Burger King is working a strategy some market watcher is calling “genius.”

It’s a simple, brash strategy raising eyebrows and earning good media traction for the fast-food chain. That strategy? When someone posts a negative review on chief rival McDonald’s social media pages, someone running the Burger King apps jumps on, defends the negative comment, and offers the complaining customer a coupon for a free Whopper sandwich.

The idea originated in Denmark, courtesy of ad agency Uncle Grey, but it’s grabbing headlines worldwide. One example that’s hit a lot of different news pages is this exchange:

Customer: “(Hey McDonald’s), why do you call it a Big Mac when it’s not?”
Burger King: “Nobody wants a Small Mac.” (Here’s a voucher for a free Whopper)

Or this one…

Customer: “We only got one bun in our Big Mac!”
Burger King: “Big Mac convertible? How innovative!” (Here’s a voucher for a free Whopper)

Anticipating that many customers would expect this to be some kind of a scam, Burger King posted on their own social media pages: “McDonald’s, it’s not spam. We’re just trying to help…”

The tongue-firmly-in-cheek nature of the campaign is turning heads, and it appears to be right on point for social media using fast-food consumers, but there’s a deeper reason for the campaign. Burger King admits they needed to step up their own social media game, telling advertising watchdog Chicago Business the following, courtesy of Daniel Schroeder, marketing director for Burger King Sweden and Denmark:

“Customer service is a big part of the entire guest experience, and we haven’t been doing a good enough job in taking care of our guests online… When addressing this, we realized there are even more burger fans out there that deserve a reply. We did what we can to help out, hoping some flame-grilled Whopper love can make things better again…”

Once again, on message and point, a reply that is self-aware and pushing the program. Well done, Mr. Schroeder and Burger King.

When a brand recognizes shortcomings in its communication program, they have a few options. They can ignore the issue and hope it goes away on its own (it won’t), they can try some tried-and-true traditional methods that might be slower but will work, or they can get honest, get bold, and have fun. Increasingly, especially on social media, this last option is seeing strong results and getting excellent traction.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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