Here’s Burger King’s formula for the biggest guerilla marketing which annoyed McDonald’s big time🍔

Akshay Lakra 🧭
3 min readMar 10, 2023

Burger King in 2015, instead of locking horns with McDonald’s tried making peace over the long-going burger war. And though it was indeed a marketing stunt disguised in the form of a peace-making effort, it’s a perfect case study for us as marketers on Guerilla Marketing.

This one single campaign led Burger King to gain :

👉 8.9 Billion Media Impressions.

👉 $220 Million worth Earned Media

👉 40% Increase in International Peace Day Awareness (That’s where it all began.)

And Everybody got talking about it 📢

The McWhopper Proposal 🤝

The Open Letter to McDonald’s by Burger King.

Burger King in August 2015 took out a full-page ad (image above) in the New York Times to publish an “open letter” to McDonald’s. The letter asked for a cease-fire to the burger war with a collaboration to make a burger named McWhopper — A crossbreed of McDonald’s Big Mac and Burger King’s Whopper. The burger as envisioned by Burger King would be available for a day and all the proceeds would go to a non-profit venture called Peace One Day.

What was McDonald’s reply?

Almost all the burger maniacs across waited for McDonald’s response on the ultimate burger. What do you think McDonald’s would have said?

It denied the collaboration with a clear NO.

Steve’s reply to Burger King on Facebook.

The CEO of McDonald’s Steve Easterbrook denied the proposal by mentioning — “A simple phone call will do next time”. Since the campaign by Burger King was launched without consulting McDonald’s, this might have infuriated the CEO Steve. Was he right in turning down the fun? or was it unprofessional of Burger King to not engage McDonald’s before the campaign? — You be the judge!

Marketing Formula & how you can do it like Burger King💡

While all said and done, this marks down as one of the best PR and Marketing exercise by a giant brand like Burger King. Due to this Burger King enjoyed a greater share of public engagement — so much that it trended on social media organically. But what’s the formula?

Here’s a 5 step Burger King formula of going viral:

  1. Take a sensitive topic that grabs attention (aka burger wars).

2. Find a social cause to generate empathy (aka Peace Day).

3. Find a hook to bridge the two together (aka McWhopper).

4. Express it in a punchy name campaign, or short hashtag (aka #mcwhopper).

5. Build a platform (website) for the project (aka to convey the intent.

While the McWhopper never became a reality, the campaign got so real that people started buying both the burgers and making a McWhopper by themselves, for themselves — something that surely led to increasing in sales of both brands. (Thanks to Burger King, from McDonald’s)

Mission Accomplished! 🏆

Hope you liked reading this story!

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Akshay Lakra 🧭

A Marketer amid the chaos . Read more about Marketing, Growth & Startups & let's together point the Growth Compass 🧭