Burger King stops selling Whoppers to help McDonald’s cause: but does it make BK look better than McD’s?

Megan Tyce
Oct 16, 2019 · 5 min read

If you’re a fan of fast food, you’ll be well aware that Burger King and McDonald’s have somewhat of a rivalry.

Burger King and McDonald’s started in the franchise food business in 1954 and 1955, respectively. McDonald’s is more substantial than their rival, with over 36,000 restaurants globally. In comparison, Burger King’ only’ have 13,000.

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Burger King, 1954 and McDonald’s, 1955 *where it states on the sign that burgers were 15¢, equivalent to $1.41 in 2019

The Whopper (BK) and Big Mac (McDonald’s) are the two best-selling burgers of all time. Burger King boasts 2.1 billion whopper sales per year, though it is challenging to find verification for that figure. McDonald’s suggests we munch through a more modest 550 million Big Macs a year.

Back in September, Burger King launched a campaign called a ‘Day Without Whopper’ they stopped selling their top-selling ‘Whopper’ burger for a day in Argentina to increase sales of McDonald’s Big Mac burgers.

“But why?” I hear you ask. Well, my friend, carry on reading.

A “Day Without Whopper” campaign

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A McHappy day

The reason behind the BK campaign was to support McDonald’s with a charitable fundraising campaign. For one day, the proceeds from every Big Mac sold were donated to Children with Cancer.

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Burger King has revealed that not only did it remove Whoppers from the menu in all of its Argentine restaurants but Whopper-less customers were actively encouraged to seek out a nearby McDonald’s and buy a Big Mac instead. The Burger King mascot even visited the Golden Arches to give a Big Mac a try while also doing his bit for charity.

In response to this, BK has won the internet and hearts of people for the kind gesture.

Delving deeper into some of the more subtle elements of BK’s campaign, there are some subtle boasts there. Firstly, they are promoting the idea that not selling Whoppers will make a big difference to the campaign. The Whopper is such a popular burger that not selling them for 24-hours is a big deal. Burger King is demonstrating that they are big players in the fast-food game.

The second suggestion is that many people would rather have a Whopper, but are being encouraged to ‘settle’ for a Big Mac — a clearly inferior product.

When you consider that they are promoting their brand, hinting that their product is superior, being seen as the good guys, AND stealing their biggest rival’s thunder. It’s a pretty good day in the marketing department really isn’t it?

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People’s reactions to BK’s campaign… No word about McDonald’s

Though this happened in Argentina, #DayWithoutWhopper was trending all over the world. This is not the first time that competitors have joined hands to support each other’s cause. The marketing archives are full of piggyback marketing examples like these, with a recent one being Uber Eats taking a stand for Zomato over the “Boycott Zomato” campaign.

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Examples of piggyback marketing

There is a genius marketing strategy that sits behind this good deed. Maybe we’re opening up a can of worms but have Burger King consciously (or subconsciously) taken the limelight from McDonald’s’ campaign to make themselves look like the heroes? Will this applause add value to their brand and win over McDonald’s’ customers?

Kiran Khalap, Co-founder & Managing Director of Chlorophyll, applauded Marcelo Pascoa, Global Marketing Head of Burger King for the warm step. “He is one of the bravest marketers on the planet. I guess this kind of hard-hitting marketing tactics is encouraged by him. A day’s loss of revenue is worth it for gaining the admiration of millions.”

It is both a kind gesture as well as brilliant ‘timing marketing’. It also takes some courage for a brand to piggyback on its competition’s initiative. When executed well, ‘Moment marketing’ exercises such as this can go a long way in winning hearts, not to mention the feel-good factor of it all.

The real winner is charity, but in the PR battle, has Burger King overshadowed McDonald’s initial idea?

Ignacia Ferioli from David Buenos Aires, the agency who came up with the Burger King campaign said, “born from our most sincere kindness” and “for one time only, the less they (Burger King) sold, the better.”

Burger King does its own charity event every July. This year it helped Atomic Lab that prints 3D prosthetic arms for disabled children. Since ‘McHappy Day’ is four months later, the marketing agency in charge of the campaign thought it was an excellent opportunity to let differences aside and help their competitors. With our cynical hat on, we wonder if this would be the case if their events were closer together…

It’s important to acknowledge that both companies were doing good and that both had marketing machinations behind their campaigns.
This campaign has made everyone aware of :

  • Burger King & its top-selling burger & how great they are for joining forces with their competitor
  • McDonald’s & its top-selling burger & how great they are for accepting BK’s efforts and how great they are as an individual company for raising money and awareness of Children with Cancer
  • The ‘Children with Cancer’ charity when people may not have heard of it before.

Piggyback marketing has been used time and time again and this is a classic example of Burger King doing precisely that. It’s not illegal, so no harm is done.

What are your thoughts?

h2o Creative Communications

The musings of the wonderful people at h2o Creative…

Thanks to Adam Brummitt

Megan Tyce

Written by

is a Digital Marketing Executive at h2o Creative Communications. Need help with your marketing requirements? Get in touch www.h2o-creative.com

h2o Creative Communications

The musings of the wonderful people at h2o Creative Communications, a full-service marketing agency based in Oxford and Leeds. We're passionate about all things marketing - design, digital, events and social media. Find out more about us here: http://h2o-creative.com/

Megan Tyce

Written by

is a Digital Marketing Executive at h2o Creative Communications. Need help with your marketing requirements? Get in touch www.h2o-creative.com

h2o Creative Communications

The musings of the wonderful people at h2o Creative Communications, a full-service marketing agency based in Oxford and Leeds. We're passionate about all things marketing - design, digital, events and social media. Find out more about us here: http://h2o-creative.com/

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