KFC marketer: Maccas should have been less corporate with Burger King McWhopper plan

The marketer in charge of KFC and Pizza Hut in Australia has suggested McDonald’s wasted an opportunity to show it has a personality by shooting down Burger King’s audacious proposal to create a McWhopper burger.

Nikki Lawson chief marketing officer for Yum Brands told Mumbrella: “There is a time and a place to be corporate and a time and a place to be fun. This was one of those times where I believe the latter would have been more appropriate,” she said.

McDonald’s quickly shot down Burger King’s “olive branch” suggestion to join forces to create the ultimate hybrid hamburger the McWhopper in aid of charity Peace One Day in a Facebook post from global CEO Steve Easterbook.



“People want to deal with personalities, not with faceless corporates, so I’m not sure why every now and again you can’t have a bit of fun with another brand. It’s about being vulnerable and not taking yourself too seriously as a company, a sense of humour is important,” Lawson said.

While public opinion, and KFC and Pizza Hut, were against McDonald’s lack-lustre response to Burger King’s friendly ambush public relations professionals are more supportive of the Golden Arches’ dilemma.

Red Agency managing director, and Havas Worldwide Group COO, James Wright said he was “quite uncomfortable with the notion of comparing ‘burger wars’ with real wars”, but admitted the real winner from the Burger King campaign is the UN International Day of Peace.

“I reckon the ultimate objective here may be to raise awareness for Peace One Day, which it is doing massively and that has to be a good thing,” Wright told Mumbrella.

“If we look at this as a PR stunt then there are, in my view, two big reasons Maccas were never going to bite on this whopper. Firstly, why would they agree to put their brand on the same level as Burger King, which is in revenue terms far far smaller and the challenger.



“By putting their iconic Big Mac with the Whopper they are kind of saying they are equal. My experience of working with McDonald’s is that they would never want to do that.”

Steve Easterbrook, McDonald’s CEO, was a client of Wright’s when he represented McDonald’s in the UK at his previous agency.

Wright continued: “Secondly, a practical reason. They would have less than a month to agree and get this to happen, there was no chance that Maccas was going to redirect its marketing efforts to making it a raging success.”

Burger King McDonald's

On McDonald’s response via Facebook Wright said: “It was short and to the point, and they acted fast.”

“I do however think that Steve now has to act himself on doing ‘something bigger to make a difference’ as his note says,” Wright said.



Res Publica co-founder and managing director Melissa Cullen was also firmly on McDonald’s side.

“Clearly the Burger King challenge is out there to illicit a response and garner public support,” she said.

“If Burger King was genuinely serious about collaboration, they wouldn’t have taken this approach. It might mean a few burger fans are disappointed but you can’t blame Maccas for not wanting to play the Burger King game.”

Poem founder Rob Lowe was in disagreement saying his “immediate gut reaction” was against “McDonald’s condescending and corporate tone of response”.

“By the looks of the social media comments, other people have had the same reaction,” Lowe said.

“It would have done the brand more favours to have some fun with the idea, even if creating the McWhopper was going to be too difficult logistically or politically. By letting the CEO respond in this way they’ve brought the world of boardroom politics into the consumers’ channel of social media and positioned the brand as a humourless corporate.”

Red Agency’s Wright is looking forward to seeing how Burger King move the stunt forward.

“I am sure that Burger King would have had some serious scenario planning around this, so that they are in a position to now move onto phase two of the campaign now Maccas has turned them down,” he said.

“Am looking forward to seeing what that is and until we do I think jury should be out on whether this is a PR hit or miss for the Burger King brand.”

Miranda Ward 


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