Under the Influence

Burger King found a way to offer Whoppers at McDonald's

McDonald’s is the 800-pound gorilla in the fast-food category, and Burger King is particularly ingenious when it comes to sniping at McDonald’s.
Offering one-cent Whoppers to people at McDonald's was an incredibly bold idea that paid off big-time. (Gene J. Puskar/The Associated Press)

Not long ago, Burger King launched its new app.

The main challenge was getting people to care about yet another fast-food app, and Burger King didn't want to default to the usual food offers as an enticement to download the app. All the other fast-food restaurants had done that already. So Burger King and its ad agency came up with a bold idea instead.

The idea was dubbed "The Whopper Detour."

Burger King offered a one-cent Whopper to people who downloaded their app. But here's the kicker — that offer was only valid when a customer was in enemy territory. Meaning, you could only place the order for the one-cent Whopper if you were at McDonald's.

Utilizing geo-fencing technology and real-time data, the Burger King app was able to detect when a customer was at a McDonald's location. Once confirmed, the one-cent Whopper offer would be unlocked. The customer could then order the Whopper through the app and make a detour to pick it up at the closest Burger King.

Offering one-cent Whoppers to people at McDonald's was an incredibly bold idea.

To promote the new app, Burger King created a video of people going through a McDonald's drive-thru asking for their Whoppers:

The one-cent Whopper Detour campaign only lasted nine days, but it was a big success. The Burger King app was downloaded over 500,000 times in the first five hours alone and over 1.5 million times during the initial nine days. It has been downloaded over 6 million times since.

The return on investment was 37:1, meaning the sales at Burger King were 37 times higher than the cost of giving out one-cent Whoppers, as the 200 per cent increase in sales continued to hold after the one-cent Whopper campaign ended. This meant an additional $15 million-worth of annual sales through the app.

One of the most amusing aspects of the campaign was a print ad Burger King created to promote the Whopper Detour. It showed the famous McDonald's sign that said "Billions Served" and changed it to say: "Billions Swerved."

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