Burger King has launched a new geotargeted marketing campaign in the US to promote its recently-revamped app – but there’s a twist.

Unlike a traditional geotargeting campaign, which targets customers with an offer or incentive to entice them towards the brand’s nearest location, Burger King is sending its customers to McDonald’s – at least at first.

A new campaign called the ‘Whopper Detour’ is allowing anyone within 600 feet of a McDonald’s restaurant with the new Burger King app installed on their phone to order a Whopper for just 1 cent.

The campaign is designed to promote Burger King’s revamped mobile app, which now allows ordering on mobile – but in true Burger King style, the brand is taking the opportunity to poke a bit of fun at its biggest rival as it does so.

Only “at” McDonald’s

Burger King first teased the campaign with a mysterious tweet that read, “brb going to McDonald’s” – which kicked off all kinds of jokes and speculation on social media.

Burger King waited an hour before revealing the joke in another tweet – from the 4th to the 12th December, customers could drive within 600 feet of a McDonald’s and use the app to order a 1 cent Whopper, whereupon the app would reveal directions to the nearest Burger King, and guide them to collect their order.

Though there’s no need to actually drive right up to McDonald’s, the brand released an entertaining video (ostensibly filmed using hidden cameras) of customers requesting a Whopper at a McDonald’s drive-through, much to the confusion of the McDonald’s employees.

Burger King has kept up the jokes on social media to promote the Whopper Detour, telling everyone on Wednesday to “drive safe” if they were on their way to McDonald’s.

Earlier today, Burger King celebrated “billions swerved”, a play on the “billions and billions served” wording that adorns signs on McDonald’s drive-throughs across the US.

It isn’t the first time that Burger King has used McDonald’s much more widespread presence to its advantage in a marketing campaign. In 2016, McDonald’s France released a video in which it poked fun at the comparative lack of Burger King restaurants in the country, erecting a huge temporary sign with a list of complex directions to the nearest Burger King, “258 KM” away, next to a simple sign pointing to the nearest McDonald’s 5km away.

Burger King hit back with an “extended version” of the video which showed a couple driving up to McDonald’s to order a coffee – to fuel them for the long, but worthwhile, trip to Burger King.

Reverse geotargeting: Clever move, or bad call?

Is Burger King taking a risk by making its customers drive to McDonald’s to get the discount? AdWeek speculated that “with the extra hassle of driving to two separate locations, customers might still be better off thanking Burger King for the laugh and springing for the closer Big Mac.”

Burger King has obviously made allowances for this with the “600 feet” geofence, meaning that being in the vicinity of a McDonald’s is enough to trigger the promotion. However, for some, driving around trying to get vaguely within range of a McDonald’s just to save $4-5 on a burger might not seem worth it. (The deal would probably work best in a city like London where a Burger King branch is likely to be within walking distance – hint, hint!)

But brand loyalists who genuinely prefer Burger King to McDonald’s are likely to take the deal, and many people will likely sign up for the offer in groups. At the very least, Burger King isn’t likely to lose any customers by sending them to McDonald’s, any more than it already does by having fewer outlets. And it might just be able to steal a few from McDonald’s in the process.

More to the point, the campaign is having the desired effect of spreading the word about Burger King’s revamped app with its newfound ordering capabilities, generating a wealth of social media coverage and dozens of amused – or bemused – articles.

And for every person who does download the Burger King app and engages, Burger King will gain valuable customer data.

Sealing the deal

It will remain to be seen whether Burger King can turn this one-time deal into long-term engagement with its revamped app. Fast food brands are increasingly launching apps with features like mobile ordering and pick-up in a bid to compete with courier services like GrubHub and Deliveroo, as well as changing consumer tastes that favour healthier options.

But it’s a well-known fact that many apps get uninstalled after just one or two uses, with a recent study by AppsFlyer finding that 28% of apps are removed after 30 days. Companies like McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts reward their customers for repeat purchases with the brand’s mobile app, through discounts and points programs.

Burger King will need to up the ante if it wants people to keep using its mobile app – but luckily, customer data is a good place to start.

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