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Burger King’s Non-Marketing Plan.

November 15, 2013
Burger King's Big King

Photo: Burger King

By now you’ve either heard about, seen, or tasted Burger King’s version of McDonald’s Big Mac. If so, you know that they call it the Big King, but I’m certain you didn’t learn that from a television commercial. I’m certain because Burger King hasn’t aired any commercials for the Big King nor do they plan to. Instead, they’re spending their advertising dollars promoting the new lower-calorie Satisfries and the BBQ Rib Sandwich. So how is the Big King getting so much attention?

One might think that the Big King is gaining popularity because it’s almost a carbon copy of the Big Mac and they would be right, but there’s got to be more to the story. I mean the same didn’t happen for McDonald’s in 2001 when they added to their menu the Big N’ Tasty, aka the Whopper-fighter. At that time, McDonald’s decided to promote the Big N’ Tasty with two commercials staring Kobe Bryant. The two national launches are like night and day. That’s actually why I decided to write this article. One obviously spent a lot of money and the other hardly spent any money at all. Unfortunately, the campaign that spent the most money was the least successful — partially because the sandwich wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. As a matter of fact, the Big N’ Tasty didn’t get much pomp and circumstance at all. Many people thought it was the worst sandwich in McDonald’s history (I personally think the McRib is the worst — I’m just saying, it has cookie cutter ribs).

The Big King’s promotional campaign — or lack thereof — seems to be well thought out. A chain that size doesn’t make the mistake to disregard promoting a sandwich of this caliber. On the contrary, if you pay close attention, you will notice that Burger King is actually promoting more than just the Big King and its comparison to the Big Mac; they are promoting the chain in its entirety as a better alternative to McDonald’s. How so, you ask. Let’s go back several years ago when Burger King took a marketing trick right out of McDonald’s playbook. Everyone knows how supply and demand works and no one knows this better than McDonald’s, e.g., Shamrock Shake, McRib, how many sauces they give you for a twenty piece McNugget. In 1997, Burger King took a shot at it. That’s when Burger King introduced the Big King in limited markets for a limited time only. Fans couldn’t get enough of it and the demand to keep the sandwich on the menu began.

One-upping McDonald’s continued years later when Burger King used the name “Big Kids Meal” to promote a meal aimed at children ages 7 to 12 just as McDonald’s had already done. Burger King won that lawsuit. McDonald’s has the infamous McRib that I keep mentioning and BK now has the BBQ Rib Sandwich. As McDonald’s began renovating many of its stores, BK followed suit. Now they both have a decent salad line-up and even similar chicken snack wraps. I laugh because it reminds me of that scene in Coming to America when Cleo McDowell says, “Look… me and the McDonald’s people got this little misunderstanding. See, they’re McDonald’s… I’m McDowell’s. They got the Golden Arches, mine is the Golden Arcs. They got the Big Mac, I got the Big Mick. We both got two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but their buns have sesame seeds. My buns have no seeds.” If you visit Burger King’s website, you’ll notice exactly what I’m saying. All three slides on the homepage are a direct attack on McDonald’s. First, the New Big King. Second, the New BBQ Rib Sandwich. Last, the New Satisfries that compare it’s nutritional value to that of McDonald’s and not Burger King’s regular fries.

In my opinion, the decision to refrain from promoting the Big King on a large scale makes the overall chain comparison more obvious and more credible than if they chose to do the opposite. Because of the overwhelming popularity of the Big Mac, commercials for the Big King would narrow the comparison to sandwich versus sandwich and in turn steal the attention from the bigger message — “we do everything better than they do”.

Keep up the good work, Burger King, and one day that message might just be true. But one more thing… Please don’t copy McDonald’s BBQ Ranch Burger. That thing looks nastier than the McRib.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 23, 2013 5:55 PM

    Thanks a lot, Burger King. I guess you decided to air commercials after I wrote this article. Also, kudos to Venessa Wong of Business Week for thinking alike. I just came across your article and saw that you also compared Burger King to McDowell’s. It’s just too funny.

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