Burger King Turns to Mobile to Serve Its Customers

Wireless Offering Provides Nutritional Info, Store Locations

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Burger King is letting its customers get their information their way -- and more and more, that way appears to be via a mobile phone.
Burger King wants to maintain a continuous mobile presence.
Burger King wants to maintain a continuous mobile presence.

Mobile website
Although McDonald's Corp. and other rival chains have toyed with mobile marketing tests, such as text-messaging sweepstakes and on-pack promotions, Burger King has become one of the first fast-food chains to establish a mobile website. The site, BK.com, offers mobile access to nutritional information and has a store locator with maps and directions. Burger King plans to expand the site in the future as mobile media evolves.

"It's all about having it your way, information wherever and whenever they want it," said Gillian Smith, global senior director of media and interactive, Burger King. She said 70% of U.S.wireless users have devices capable of accessing the mobile web. In addition, "we want as a restaurant to get consumers as close as possible to the purchase decision," she said.

The effort is the most recent in Burger King's mobile push. Its Super Bowl "Whopperette" spot was available as a mobisode. Burger King also created an integrated campaign involving product placement, internet and mobile elements around the Fox unscripted drama "Unan1mous."

More than just one-off programs
But the website indicates the fast-food chain is interested in more than just one-off promotions. The chain aims to have a continuous mobile presence, said Michael Nevins, VP-sales, Crisp Wireless, an interactive company that handles mobile campaigns and worked on the program.

From its previous efforts, Burger King discovered that customers responding to mobile promotions tend to be younger than the company initially anticipated, said Webster Lewin, mobile marketing strategist at VML, Burger King's interactive agency of record and the lead agency for mobile initiatives.

And from a recent Hispanic promotion the chain discovered that more responses came from T-Mobile customers, who are thought to be more price sensitive, than from Sprint and Cingular customers, even though Burger King has more Sprint and Cingular subscribers in its customer base.

"The reality is there are two groups of heavy users of the mobile internet," said Mr. Lewin, "25 and younger and connected professionals [who are] 25 to 40" -- the Blackberry and Palm crowd, believed to be less price sensitive. The challenge is to "get both audiences in the door and have things for them."

Carrier policies
The marketer has had to navigate different policies among carriers as well. While Burger King offered ringtones, wallpapers and other mobile giveaways, each carrier had a separate policy and some would only carry one piece of content. "It's another problem with the whole ecosystem," Mr. Lewin said.

Burger King has made some adjustments in its mobile programs based on what it learned. For example, in a recent Hispanic promotion, it has put short codes for promotions on peel-off labels so consumers would be able to take the information with them instead of just tossing it out with a wrapper or a bag.

Other chains also are moving to tap the marketing potential of the mobile phone. A dozen Subway restaurants in Buffalo, N.Y., owned by QSR Brands are testing a mobile alerts club program where customers can receive coupons, event notifications and special offers via mobile phone. Consumers sign up for the alerts by texting a code or signing up on a website. Information about those signing up for the offers will be made available to the sandwich retailer.

McDonald's NYC effort
McDonald's is trying to drive traffic in the slow late-evening hours by delivering messages such as "McD L8 Nite Deals: Buy1Get1: QPC, Big Mac, FiletOFish" to cellphones through a mobile campaign in the New York metropolitan area. The weekly mobile coupons are promoted over banner ads on popular mobile internet sites, targeting consumers by age and location, and are also available through the McDonald's Late Night Lounge website.

Havas' Arnold and MPG handled the promotion and tapped Enpocket's mobile marketing arm to develop the campaign.
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