It might be the age of smart partnerships and collaboration, but it’s hard to imagine some rival brands working together. Take fast-food chains Burger King and McDonald’s, for example.
In a recent campaign though, that’s exactly what Burger King suggested – that the two come together to create the ‘McWhopper’, a fusion of their bestselling Big Mac and Whopper burgers. Burger King suggested this as a way to ‘settle the beef’ in honor of International Day of Peace, observed by the United Nations on September 21st.
The initiative involved operating a pop-up restaurant for one day at Atlanta – mid-way from Burger King’s HQ at Miami and McDonald’s HQ in Chicago. The pop-up restaurant would be staffed by employees of both companies, and the branding would be a mash-up of the two companies’ brand elements.
The larger purpose of this collaboration was to raise awareness for Peace One Day, a non-profit that helped establish the annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence.
Burger King’s tweet to McDonald’s
Burger King launched the campaign with full-page print ads in The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, which read, “We come in peace. We know we’ve had our petty differences, but how about we call a cease-fire on these so-called ‘burger-wars’?”
Burger King also published a video and a website explaining how the initiative would work and how customers could pay for the burger – by simply pledging to ‘end the beef’ with someone.
The thing I love about the McWhopper Project, is it walks the walk, it leads by example and demonstrates a genuine commitment to Peace Day, and a more peaceful and sustainable world. Corporate activism on this scale creates mass awareness and awareness creates action and action saves lives.
Founder, Peace One Day
People loved it.
The McWhopper proposal dominated conversations on the day, as people shared their reactions to the concept and speculated on McDonald’s response. More importantly, Burger King’s proposal brought people’s attention to the upcoming International Peace Day.
The campaign also established Burger King as the ‘good guy’ leading change and peace-keeping efforts with its larger rival McDonald’s.
McDonald’s rejection = a missed opportunity?
McDonald’s rejected the proposal on Facebook, with a note from CEO Steve Easterbrook. Rather than partnering with Burger King to create the McWhopper, McDonald’s proposed a larger more meaningful effort to address the suffering of war: “We love the intention but think our two brands could do something bigger to make a difference.”
People following the incident found the response to be ‘smug,’ and lent their support to Burger King. In fact, so many people took Burger King’s ‘side’ on social media, that it seems McDonald’s may have missed an opportunity or ‘lost’ this battle with Burger King.
These represent the majority of the responses to McDonald’s rejection
Burger King ultimately went ahead with its Peace Day plans, partnering with Denny’s, Krystal, Giraffas and Wayback Burgers.
And McDonald’s led a multi-industry effort to support the UN’s World Food Programme in raising awareness about the impact of food assistance, on International Peace Day. Burger King participated and applauded McDonald’s efforts. But these developments made far fewer headlines than the initial proposal and rejection.
This post is a part of our People’s Insights monthly brief for August & September, Innovation without Boundaries.