A gut reaction to Burger King’s McWhopper campaign

Burger King is reaching out to its longtime competitor, McDonald’s, with an unusual proposal: create a hybrid of each company’s signature burger — Big Mac and Whopper — and then sell it at a pop-up restaurant in Atlanta for one day. Sales proceeds would be donated to Peace One Day, a nonprofit group seeking to raise awareness of the International Day of Peace. It falls on September 21, 2015.

Much like a McRib, this didn’t sit right. While Burger King has exhibited stronger same store sales growth than McDonald’s in recent quarters, the “rivalry” really only exists in the US, where Burger King has over 60% of its revenues. What’s more, in the US alone, McDonald’s does over 8x the sales of BK annually, and Wendy’s is often seen as the Number Two competitor within the US market.

Internationally, BK has a limited presence. Indeed, piggy-backing off a “global peace day” could help raise awareness, but not the kind of awareness we need.

McDonald’s CEO, Steve Easterbrook responded promptly on Facebook with the following:

screen shot 2015-08-26 at 2.48.57 pm

Some were outraged, citing that “awareness” is a pre-requisite for global peace.

Personally, I struggle to follow BK’s reasoning and have a number of questions:

How will shitty fast food fusion have any lasting impact on global peace? Who will be monitoring how the proceeds get redistributed? If you really wanted to raise funds why limit it to one restaurant in Atlanta?

The whole marketing ploy seems kind of shameful – like the act of devouring McDonald’s in my car and disposing of evidence before I get home. I don’t think we should turn a blind eye to war and all of the suffering people face in its wake, but I struggle to argue with Steve Easterbrook when he asks for something “more meaningful.”

Let’s look briefly at who stands to gain from such a “global” advertising campaign:

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Not even close. McDonald’s has over 25x the global revenues of Burger King. What’s worse, global sales declines have been more detrimental to BK, although the entire fast-food category has been suffering recently. Now lets look at geographic sales breakdowns (circle area represents sales in billions):

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Burger King has a more limited international presence, with only 40% of its sales coming from outside the US, while McDonald’s sources almost 70% of revenues from abroad.

In short, Burger King needs this type of advertising far more then McDonald’s does.

I’m all for corporate activism, but not like this.

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