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How Burger King throws away money with mass-market SMS approach

Burger King

A recent SMS message from Burger King

Burger King gets points for leveraging SMS to raise awareness of new products with a wide audience, but the brand is missing a key opportunity to drive sales by not customizing messages to activate recipients. 

Burger King continuously uses MMS to push out promotions to its SMS database that tie into bigger marketing campaigns but lack a call-to-action to actually get a consumer into a restaurant. Quick service restaurants have been particularly active in SMS over the years in pushing out aggressive, time-sensitive offers, but Burger King’s initiatives highlight the importance in getting mobile right at the local level.

“Franchised QSRs operate within a web of corporate regulations, local market needs and limited marketing budgets,” said Zach Zimmerman, marketing manager at HelloWorld, Pleasant Ridge, MI.

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“This fragmentation can make it tricky to execute localized and targeted mobile marketing campaigns,” he said. “Burger King appears to be using MMS at the corporate level to advertise national promotions, raising brand awareness of existing offers rather than delivering localized or mobile-exclusive discounts and promotions.”

Mr. Zimmerman is not affiliated with Burger King. He spoke based on his expertise on the subject.

Burger King did not respond to press inquiries.

Missed opportunity
Burger King’s messages always include a picture of a product above a piece of copy that encourages consumers to try it out at a nearby location.

For example, a message sent last week from Burger King promoted a new offer for a $2.99 small hot coffee and muffin sandwich.

Underneath, copy read “Offer ends 2/28/14. Participating restaurants during breakfast hours. Restrictions apply.”

However, there is not any information on which stores the offer applies to or an incentive to encourage consumers to go into a store.

Burger King could have used a variety of different tactics to make the message more effective – including a video or a link to a store locator or coupon.

Additionally, the SMS messages could be segmented towards specific markets.

Alternatively, the images that are already included in messages could be turned into incentives to get consumers into stores. For example, a piece of copy could encourage consumers to show the picture to a store employee to receive a coupon or offer.

Other recent similar messages have included a Valentine’s Day promotion for a deal on sandwiches, $1 burgers and a holiday promotion for gift cards.

The $1 burger offer

The Valentine's Day offer

Stacking up to the competition
Compared to Burger King, competitors Jack in the Box, White Castle and Carl’s Jr. seem to be getting SMS and MMS right at the local level with campaigns that activate in-store traffic.

During the recent Super Bowl, Jack in the Box stirred up some hype leading up to its TV spot that debuted a new cheeseburger with an MMS blast. The message gave consumers a sneak peek at the upcoming ad and an image of the product that could be redeemed as a coupon in-store (see story). 

Additionally, 40 Carl’s Jr. locations in Texas and Oklahoma reported a 17 percent mobile coupon redemption rate as a result of sending out local offers. The coupons are redeemed by typing in a code at the point-of-sale (see story). 

Carl's Jr.'s SMS coupons

White Castle also tapped mobile last year to set up customized location-based SMS alerts (see story). 

Focusing on local markets like these brands are doing can pay off for QSRs with coupon redemptions and in-store traffic, according to Jeff Hasen, Seattle-based chief marketing officer of Mobivity.

“We’ve seen terrific recent success with QSR clients driving people into the store during the Polar Vortex and for product introductions that actually yielded higher sales despite giveaways of product or reduction in price,” he said.

Additionally, both Carl’s Jr. and White Castle’s campaigns are part of more integrated campaigns that the chains are using to build up loyalty and drive repeat traffic.

“QSRs should use mobile as a part of their loyalty programs,” said Aaron Clark, vice president of mobile sales and operations at HelloWorld.

“Rewarding customers for repeat orders or visits ensures they will return and creates a rich engagement between consumer and brand,” he said. “For example, if you're only a few points from getting a complimentary meal somewhere, you're more likely to go there to eat and get those extra points over choosing a different restaurant.”

Losing relevance?
Although marketers do not appear to be slimming down their mobile messaging initiatives, consumers are increasingly becoming less responsive to messages that bombard their mobile devices.

Take Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of Whatsapp, for example.

With consumers using their mobile devices in new ways to connect with their friends and family members, there is a possibility that SMS-based campaigns could dwindle in relevance for marketers eyeing social media and other tactics to connect with consumers.

Therefore, it is critical that marketers do not invade consumers with un-relevant or too many messages.

“As marketers, we need to reach people where they are most, which is their mobile phones,” HelloWorld’s Mr. Clark said. 

“If a customer is opting in to receive mobile messages from a brand, app, etc., it's because they want to receive that information to their phones, so it's imperative to make sure you're leveraging that request for frequent engagement in an effective manner,” he said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York

Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer. Reach her at lauren@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Messaging, mobile, mobile marketing, Zach Zimmerman, HelloWorld, Jeff Hasen, Mobiivity, Aaron Clark

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Comments on "How Burger King throws away money with mass-market SMS approach"

  1. Matt Silk says:

    February 28, 2014 at 10:57am

    It is pretty common for brands to start with national, non-targeted campaigns while they are the initial list building phase. We are excited to see them in the game, though.

    The biggest challenge we see for brands has been fulfillment at the store/restaurant level. Adding the infrastructure and training to promote/accept/track offers like this can be a daunting expenditure of time, resources and money. Layer on top of that the franchisor/franchisee relationship and it is not a surprise that these rollouts take time and a fearless champion to make a reality.

    I wrote a full response and comments on our blog: http://goo.gl/lQ2fWu

    CMO, Waterfall
  2. Bobby Angilella says:

    February 27, 2014 at 3:44pm

    From my personal experience in training customers on SMS Marketing here at SlickText there are a few things Burger King is missing. Text Marketing is not an avenue of marketing you can just send an announcement that you are having a sale. To be effective with your text marketing campaigns you need a couple key components. I teach on these subjects all day with our great customers here at SlickText. Components you should consider in your campaign are exclusivity (exclusive to text members), high value (un-heard of deal), respect frequency (amount of messages per month), respect proximity (distance between campaigns), scarcity (limited quantity), time pressured (optional but a good tactic for last minute offers), and expiration stamp (when the text offer expires). If you miss one of these key components and you can kiss your response rate good bye. If you would like a copy of my fine tuned campaign guideline contact us. We would be happy to help.
  3. Matt Baglia says:

    February 27, 2014 at 2:51pm

    I'm blown away that their marketing department wouldn't catch something like that. Especially when you're marketing a product that varies by location. Most SMS marketing providers collect location information on their subscribers. The issue could be easily addressed by simply segmenting their subscribers base based on zip codes of restaurants that honor a given promotion. Burger King gets a C - for this one.
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