How One Campaign Changed Burger King’s Marketing Outlook

How One Campaign Changed Burger King's Marketing Outlook - Sachs Marketing Group

The Hamburger Wars have been going on for decades – ever since Burger King hit the scene in 1954 McDonald’s was first franchised in 1955. Companies like Wendy’s and Burger King have been competing against McDonald’s to keep customers happy. Burger King has been facing off with McDonald’s for a long time – but this time – they’ve done something amazing.

Over the past few years, Burger King has built a reputation for itself. The brand has done an impressive job using creativity to grab attention and build love (and loyalty) for the brand.

Burning Stores, McWhopper, and Google Home of the Whopper are just a few of the campaigns that were talked about widely – giving the brand billions of impressions and helping to revamp the brand. They were successful in driving customers into the stores, but the main focus was to make the brand “cool” again.

Burger King’s real hit campaign, the Whopper Detour, marks a defining moment for the brand and their marketing. Burger King’s global Chief Marketing Officer tells AdWeek, “There’s a clear ‘before’ and an ‘after’ when it comes to the Whopper Detour. This campaign marks a turning point in our marketing and shows what we believe the future of great creativity might be – at least for us.”

A Closer Look at the Whopper Detour Campaign

In December 2018, BK launched the Whopper Detour campaign. From December 4th until December 12th, customers who downloaded the BK app and went to McDonald’s could unlock an offer that allowed people to purchase a Whopper for a penny. It was done as part of the mobile app (available on Android and iOS) relaunch that included features to order and pay in advance.

It was a way for people to order Whopper sandwiches at McDonalds. The brand went so far as to say, the brand turned more than 14,000 McDonald’s into Burger Kings… sort of.

How the Promotion Worked

The promotion works by geofencing McDonald’s locations across the country. If a guest inside one of the restaurants had the BK installed on their phone or tablet,  (or within 600 feet of one of those locations) the app unlocked the Whopper Detour promotion.

Once the customer places the BK order, they were “detoured” from McDonald’s and directed to the nearest BK location to pick up their burger. Each registered BK app user could redeem the promotion once.

The technology used in the campaign isn’t new. Geofencing and mobile order and payment has been around a while. It’s not particularly easy to convince people to download apps from fast-food brands, especially the burger chains. BK, along with many other brands, couldn’t get people to download the app even when giving products away.

The Results

The Whopper Detour increased BK mobile app sales 300% during the nine-day promotion, and by 200% ever since the promotion ended. The campaign sent the BK app from 686 to number one in the app store, across all categories in both Android and iOS. It also drove the highest amount of foot traffic – people visiting the restaurant – in four and a half years.

How Did it Happen?

What started as a crazy idea that bent the rules of direct marketing and eCommerce technology became something with scale and long-time impact.

The campaign took about a year to develop, evolving over time – which is something the brand says they see in all of their best campaigns. It took a large team of people to pull it off, involving a technology team and several tech partners. The entire app, which had been newly updated to include mobile order and payment, had to be recoded to work well with geofencing. That meant geofencing more than 7,000 BK restaurants in the United States, along with all of the McDonald’s locations in the U.S., of which there are more than 14,000.

Here, you see the power of a big idea and what it takes to make something different happen, along with why creative partners such as advertising and marketing agencies are so important. Big creative ideas will blow through trends, programmatic advertising, and AI any day – and there are a lot of people out there who seem to forget that.

It’s important to keep a focus on the big idea. Use creativity to grab your audience’s attention and build brand loyalty. This way you’ll build it today and be able to scale it through to tomorrow and beyond. What Burger King  did wasn’t a one-location, one-day stunt. That’s not what got people talking about it. It was the scale at which it launched that got the buzz going.

As marketers, it’s important to learn from the success of others. The mobile phenomenon and geofencing technology allows you to advertise to customers based on their location, no matter your industry. Gyms could start sending deals, such as “Join now and your first month is $1” as soon as they set foot in the competition’s location. Car dealerships could promise to find the vehicle someone is looking for, for a cheaper price the second they see that someone has set foot on another lot.

The technology BK used to troll McDonald’s is available to anyone. It allows you to market any time, and anywhere to highly targeted customers. But, use it well, and you can steal customers from your competition, too.