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By: Jennifer Tilliss

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Aug 26, 2015 | Linhart Blog, Our Business

McDonald’s McStake

Burger King pulled off a creative, yet brilliant in its simplicity PR stunt: McWhopper.com. The burger monolith invited that other burger monolith that starts with “Mc” to collaborate on a “McWhopper” burger in honor of Peace Day, taking place on September 21. The burger, taking the best parts of the Big Mac and Whopper, would be sold in Atlanta on Peace Day, with proceeds donated to Peace One Day, a nonprofit that provides educational resources to schools around the world.

I love this stunt for three reasons:

  • Combination of paid and earned media. Burger King used a combination of paid and earned media to make a huge splash. The “ask” to McDonald’s was made through an “open letter” in the form of full page newspaper ads. As a result, the stunt was picked up by almost every major news outlet – including coverage in the first hour of the Today Show.
  • Feel good element. Burger King could’ve done the same thing on National Burger Day, but part of the brilliance of the stunt is that it was done to celebrate something a positive movement and do good for those in need.
  • Simplicity. Selling the combo burger in one city on one day is all that’s needed to make this work. Not only does this not require a ton of manpower or logistics on behalf of the two brands, but it’s fairly inexpensive. The biggest cost associated with the stunt was probably the full page ads, and that cost is dwarfed by the amount of coverage the stunt received.

McDonalds declined the offer. I think this is a mistake for three reasons:

  • It’s no fun. It positions McDonalds as uptight and unwilling to have a little bit of fun with itself and biggest competitor.
  • It’s uncharitable. Not sure declining participation in Peace Day and a donation to Peace One Day is something a brand like McDonalds would want to be associated with.
  • It’s snarky. This isn’t so much about the decline, but how it was done. Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO said, “We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference. He also urged Burger King to “acknowledge that between us there is simply a friendly business competition and certainly not the unequaled circumstances of the real pain and suffering of war.” And he closed with, “We’ll be in touch. P.S. A simple phone call will do next time.” Sorry Steve, but getting snarky and trying to associate the stunt with war only serves to further paint Burger King as the fun, charitable hero and McDonalds as the boring, uncharitable zero.

While I think the winner and loser in this stunt is clear, it didn’t have to be that way. Had Burger King worked together with McDonalds on the stunt, both brands could’ve come out on top thanks to the ongoing news-making opportunities leading up to and through Peace Day. I can’t imagine the Today Show wouldn’t send a crew to try a “McWhopper,” can you?

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