King stunt or McFail?

Charlie Rainsford from Freshwater’s London PR team analyses the McWhopper promotion idea from Burger King...

With the intention of commemorating International Day of Peace, the fast food giant Burger King recently decided to reach a Whopper-sized olive branch out to their arch-rival, McDonalds, and proposed a merge of their two most famous sandwiches, the Whopper and the Big Mac.

The stunt was intended to raise money for charity and put the two firm’s differences aside for a day. Burger King put together a promotional video, suggesting which ingredients would go into the burger and even a location for a pop-up restaurant in Atlanta, half way between the two companies’ headquarters. In a purely innocent sense, Burger King could be seen to be putting its professional pride aside for a day and raising money, and publicity, for a vital cause. A cynic would say that it is a PR stunt, intended to bridge the gap between them and their rival by seeming the more active and socially-aware brand, as well as increase the company’s withering profile.

McDonalds returned the favour with a deadpan, po-faced response, intended to lessen the PR impact from their rival and reject the opportunity to ‘collaborate’. McDonalds’ new CEO, Steve Easterbrook, posted on their official Facebook page “We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference. We commit to raise awareness worldwide, perhaps you’ll join us in a meaningful global effort?” He also pointed out that the burger industry did not equate to the real pain and suffering of war.

While many will see this as just an empty public relations stunt, McDonalds’ straight-talking approach has seen them portrayed as boring and unwilling to co-operate in the fact-paced world of social media. McDonalds would say that they have nothing to win in this situation as the leader in the fast food sector, however, as so much PR work is now done online, it is always important for companies to ensure their virtual presence is as visible as it is offline.

One of the major outcomes to come out of the campaign has been the increased publicity for International Day of Peace. In a poll for PR Week, 25% of respondents said that they had not heard of International Peace Day before but they had now, more than the 23% who said that McDonalds had come out better, but less than the 46% who believed Burger King to have succeeded. While this may be seen as a cheap PR stunt by two huge companies, a growth in the awareness of such an important cause as International Day of Peace cannot be overstated. Charities crave this level of media attention as it can boost their profile, and thus donations, beyond anything they had experienced previously.

While International Day of Peace has the support of the United Nations and has achieved many impressive feats over its 14 years in existence, it is clear that gaining traction on social media platforms through this campaign by Burger King is likely to bring it to the attention of people who have never been aware of this before. Though McDonalds may be correct in saying that the ‘war of burgers’ does not equate to everyday warfare, it can certainly help to reduce it.


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Impact Report 2017

Impact report 2017