Burger King pranks McDonald’s in savvy new geolocation campaign

by | Dec 6, 2018 | Public Relations

Burger King has been rocking some very effective campaigns lately—and honing some pretty effective trolling skills over the last couple of years, especially for picking on (and profiting from) fast food big brother McDonald’s. With memories of past stunts like 2017’s ghoulish “never trust a clown” smear campaign still fresh in mind, the King’s zany marketing tricksters are at it again—this time using new geolocation tactics for some tech-savvy pranking.

Marking the launch of its revamped mobile app—and to have some fun in the process—BK rolled out the “Whopper Detour” campaign to offer a juicy deal on its trademark sandwich, and generate some traffic (but not the good kind) for its “arch” nemesis. The campaign offers app-enabled customers a Whopper for just one penny—but you have to be within 600 feet of a McDonald’s location to initiate the deal.

Burger King pranks McDonald’s in fresh new geolocation campaign

The gimmick runs until Dec. 12, and anyone who has the new app can drive themselves within the geofenced area of more than 14,000 Mickey D’s franchises nationwide, triggering the app to unlock the promotion, and then “detour” the user away from the Golden Arches to a nearby BK store to pick up the order—not only manhandling McDonald’s as part of the campaign, but also forcing franchise managers to watch all those customers drive up and then leave empty-handed. Pretty darned clever, and more than a little mean—in other words, perfect marketing!

“Don’t miss out on your chance to order the first Whopper sandwich ever available only ‘at’ McDonald’s,” Burger King said, adding that the brand was “turning more than 14,000 McDonald’s into Burger King restaurants. Sort of.”

A new video helps promote the stunt, the brainchild of a new ad agency relationship with FCB New York, and includes clips of would-be customers getting the best of drive-through clerks at McDonald’s, ordering Whoppers instead of Big Macs.

Clever stuff indeed—but clever enough to work? We’ll soon find out. There are some undeniable risks inherent, like making app users drive around unnecessarily to claim their ad prize—not to mention sending them directly into a competitor’s branded territory, where hungrier ad targets might just throw in the towel and grab a Big Mac since they’re already there—you couldn’t fail much harder than that.

But you’ve got to hand it to Burger King for keeping things fresh and shamelessly entertaining. It all reminds us of that brilliant old Avis mantra: “We’re number two. We try harder.”

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter