How Burger King stole customers from McDonald’s to sell thousands of one-cent whoppers.

The Germans created and named the hamburger (Hamburg is a city in Germany). The Americans, however, had the ingenious idea of putting their creation between two buns. Or, at least that’s what Andrew F. Smith has concluded, the hamburger thought-leader and author of the mouth-watering book Hamburger: A Global History.

And, ever since the hamburger was first served up on the streets of New York City back in the 1890s, it has found its way deep inside the belly of American culture.

Today, burgers are more diverse than they’ve ever been. In fact, some would argue one could tell a lot about a person simply based off their burger of choice.

For the vegan, there is the impossible burger.

For the college kid on a budget, there are the soggy but oh so savory White Castle mini burgers.

For the rich and famous, there are gourmet double-decker burgers topped with aged cheese, lobster tail, and thick cut bacon.

Yet, perhaps, the most iconic of burgers, loved or at the very least appreciate by all, are the ones served up by the pair of golden arches located on practically every street corner across the United States (and the world for that matter).

The Great Whopper Detour by Burger King

How do you defeat a giant? One bite at a time.

Ever since McDonald’s was franchised in 1955 by the hungry yet controversial Ray Kroc, the fast-food chain has been wowing customers across the world with their rendition of the hamburger.

And today, with 14,000 McDonald’s in the US, the giant serves up a whopping 75 burgers every second. Yes, you read that right.

This is splendid for McDonald’s. Less so for other players in the fast-food space looking to sell more burgers.

Or, should we say whoppers?

Burger King has been facing off against McDonald’s for quite some time and has been forced to watch with hands tied as burger lovers everywhere make their daily pilgrimage to the holy golden arches of its arch-nemesis. See what we did there?

But, after years of playing second fiddle, it appears they’ve had enough.

Just the other day it was announced that Burger King has organized The Whopper Detour. The savvy fast-food chain is harnessing the power of geotargeting to offer McDonald’s customers a deal too good to pass up –– one cent whoppers from Burger King.

What do customers have to do to unlock the deal? Well, that’s where things get interesting. If customers download Burger King’s app and get within 600 feet of a McDonald’s… Burger King will send them a mobile coupon for a one cent whopper.

We know what you’re thinking. We were thinking about it too when we first hear about the news. Has Burger King lost its mind?

Is our math right? 14,000 > 6,000.

After we heard the news, we did a bit of digging into this little marketing maneuver by Burger King and we’ve come to the conclusion that it might be… well, genius. There are 14,000+ McDonald’s locations across the United States compared to only 6,000-ish Burger King locations.

Burger King is leveraging the power of geofencing to steal traffic from a fast-food empire that has over double the number of stores that they do. In addition, the younger generations will respect the heck out of Burger Kings “chutzpah” if you will and there’s a solid chance the stunt will go viral.

But, whoppers aside, what can us marketers learn from Burger King’s Whopper Detour?

Keep your friends close. Keep your enemies closer.

Sun Tzu, the brilliant Chinese military strategist once wrote in his iconic book “The Art of War”… keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It’s a line all too fitting for Burger King’s latest stunt and a line us marketers must remember as we try to sell our products and services in an age that’s more competitive than ever before.

Too often we think… how can we get more traffic to our stores? When, what we really need to be thinking is… how can we go to where the traffic already is?

While most of us can’t pick up our businesses and travel miles away to where our customers are hanging out… we don’t have to. We have technology like geofencing that allows us to advertise to our customers based on their location.

Gyms can start sending prospective customers deals like “First month for just a $1” as soon as they walk into a competitor’s gym.

Auto dealers can start sending prospective customers marketing promotions like “Whatever you’re looking for, we’ll find it for you cheaper” when they step foot on a competitors lot.

Geofencing and mobile give bold savvy marketers the chance to not only market anytime, anywhere to highly-targeted customers… but, it also lets us steal customers from our competitors.

And, let’s face it… that’s both fun and it pays well too.