How Burger King turned a stale marketing idea into a whopper

Gary Flood Profile picture for user gflood December 19, 2023
Braze customer engagement suite and Amplitude data analytics helped turn a flailing Burger King marketing campaign into a significant success

An image of a Burger King meal in a restaurant
(Image by uluer servet yüce from Pixabay)

The UK division of Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) giant Burger King says that its use of customer relationship management (CRM) technology is allowing it to connect better with the users of its mobile app.

Specifically, using the Braze CRM customer engagement platform, Burger King UK was able to mount a cross-channel birthday campaign involving email, in-app messages, and push notifications.

This, says the organization’s UK Digital Growth Manager, Madeleine Dodd, achieved a very welcome 55% direct open rate, a 22% click-to-open rate, and a 10% click-through rate.

A key learning from the project is that if you don’t know something about your customers, just ask them, she says.

That’s because with consent and clear expectations around use of personal data, more successful campaigns can be enabled, while maintaining customer trust.

Turning a campaign problem into an opportunity

Dodd explains that the company had identified an opportunity to better segment its customer base.

She says:

In July 2022, a few months after I joined, we set live a birthday journey coupon offer on our app.

This gave you a free Whopper on your birthday, and we reasoned that if you were a Burger King app user you’d love that idea, so we were really excited to release this new journey.

The commercial idea here was to use the occasion of a customer’s birthday to provide more personalized, relevant, and useful messages.

Birthdays can be an extremely valuable tool for B2C marketers, like Dodd.

Knowing a customer’s birthday not only allows for an opportunity to offer a relevant gift on the day, but being seen as knowing about an individual improves the customer’s overall digital experience with the brand.

Hopefully, it also strengthens the overall relationship.

Having accurate personal data like this also opens scope for both the marketing team and the larger organization to gain additional insight into product reception.

Another benefit would be a better handle of specific Burger King meal and combination popularity across age groups, so the brand can better target communications across channels.

But there was a problem. She says:

The campaign had been live for about a month. Obviously, we were tracking and monitoring how it was performing, and we noticed that we weren’t sending out a lot of coupons to our customers.

So, I looked a bit further into it - and when I looked at the database, I immediately noticed that a lot of customers hadn't actually ever told us their birthday. That's because unlike other brands, we don't require a sign up, so it's very optional as a customer if you want to provide us with that information.

Which was fine - but this reduced opportunities to both offer birthday discounts and personalize messaging based on more accurate age information.

In fact, over half the Burger King UK user database had not provided their date of birth, and so were not receiving the birthday Whopper offer.

Essentially, says Dodd, customers weren’t being incentivized enough to share the birthday information that BK needed to support segmentation.

She adds:

What I thought I'd do is find a more original way of asking this question instead of the more boring and straightforward way of just saying, ‘Well, what's your birthday?’

Her tactic was to do a one-off joke across all of Burger King’s channels: saying ‘Happy Birthday!’ to everyone.

She explains:

The idea was quite simple in its look and feel, but it was humoristic and so really represented our brand in our voice: it was a bit of fun with our customers, which they enjoy from time to time - and after all, we had a one in chance of getting it right with at least some of our users!

But most customers were immediately responding, ‘Hold on, it's not my birthday today?’ We then had a natural opening to ask them to give us their actual dates.

As a direct result of her new strategy, she says, 70,000 more customers went to the app to update their birthday details.

In addition, 60% of respondents who filled in their birthdays then went on to browse the Burger King menu or app offer pages.

All in all, the campaign achieved an 800% increase in the daily number of users self-reporting their date of birth.

Using the hallmark Burger King ‘voice’

The path to this success started a few weeks before the ‘Happy Birthday!’ message.

To fix the incomplete customer profile problem, Dodd and her team had turned to data analytics help from Amplitude.

This company is a partner of Burger King’s main CRM partner, Braze.

The software quickly identified customers who had signed up to the BK app but had not yet provided a birthday as part of the entry criteria.

The two tech partners then sifted the database based on opt-in status and customer channel preference.

For each new segment, birthday-branded emails, cell phone push notifications and in-app messages were designed.

These were then issued at what Burger King knew was just before peak app usage time - lunch.

The 11am messages were consciously designed, she says, to connect with target customers using the same humorous tone often employed in the brand’s marketing.

Efficiency was also gained by simply re-skinning the existing birthday promotion template, which Dodd says was achieved in just a couple of hours.

As a result, Dodd says Burger King UK was able to engage with more than half of the users who already had their mobile app downloaded.

The push also delivered significant customer traffic to the app, she says.

What are you going to give me for my data?

A long-time user of Braze on a global basis, several of its tools were used in the Birthday data capture work.

This included its customer journey orchestration tool and an audience sync tool for connecting brand experiences across both owned and paid channels.

Going forward, the success of the data capture has brought home to the BK UK team the benefits of moving away from blanket-messaging to speaking directly to customers.

She says:

A lot of brands now ask so much of customers in terms of their data, so the biggest takeaway for me from this is that customers are willing to exchange data if there's a clear value exchange for them. We were extremely clear that we wanted their birthday because we wanted to reward them on their big day; by keeping it so simple and clear, customers were willing to share.

Nowadays, customers are so conscious of data privacy and what they're sharing with brands - and quite rightly. So, it's been hugely insightful for us and led us to re-evaluate how we ask our customers to provide information.

This is a key consideration of the next step in use of CRM at the company, she says, which involves greater use of gamification in outreach.

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