The McWhopper: Does anyone come out on top of this PR fiasco?

Burger King came up with an idea to celebrate World Peace Day on 21st September by working with McDonalds to create a McWhopper burger, but their heavy handed invitation and McDonalds’ passive aggressive rebuttal have left both firms looking – well, it's like hamburgers at dawn.

BK had it all figured out. They had figured out how to combine both chain’s signature burgers, and how to name it. The name consisted of the whole name of their burger, and absolutely none of the ‘Big Mac’ – well, two letters, in a different configuration, but we’re being picky.

Not only that, but they’d designed the packaging, designed the staff uniforms, and even suggested a one-off location, halfway between the two head offices, in which to hold their designated pop-up shop. They’d chosen the charity, and even designed a slogan: “Let’s end the beef, with beef.”

1339 MC Location

All of the practical decisions had been made, and were presented to McDonalds via the medium of full page, full colour advertisements in the US press, and an extensive and detailed website.

It didn’t take McDonalds long to devise a response, posted on their corporate Facebook page.

Dear Burger King, Inspiration for a good cause... great idea. We love the intention but think our two brands could...

Posted by McDonald's on Wednesday, 26 August 2015

 

MacDonalds have been roundly criticised for failing to get involved, but there are some who can see his point. From a corporate perspective, they had little to gain from effectively ‘joining in’ a Burger King initiative. BK hadn’t left them any room for input by publically announcing so many details of the proposed venture beforehand – there wasn’t much left to do except decide who’s fries to stock. It was an antagonistic manoeuvre in itself.

And the last line – “P.S. A simple phone call will do next time” – while being accurate, is not a point well made and has certainly come off as extremely passive aggressive. But the comparison between two competing fast food chains and actual, physical wars in which millions of innocent people die? Extreme, and somewhat distasteful in some markets.

But there’s no avoiding the fact that McDonalds have simply not put their hands in their pockets to do something with this opportunity. Perhaps a counter-proposal (sic) would have been more consumer-friendly, in an industry where image is everything, and positive brand association is work its weight in milkshake.

I’m willing to bet that the corporate PR folks at Subway, KFC and Pizza Hut are currently glued to their desks, trying to find a way to interject and come off as the winner in all of this. The door seems to be more than open to do that, but with whom, and in what way, remains to be seen.

Who's camp are you in? Any winners or losers in your eyes? What would you do next? Leave your comments below.