When Burger King rolled out its iconic ‘Have it Your Way’ slogan in 1974, the jingle that accompanied it promised consumers, ‘Special orders don’t upset us, all we ask is that you let us serve it your way!’

1974 Burger King Campaign | Michael’s TV Tray

Now, nearly 50 years later, Burger King has taken its promise one step further and given flame-grilled fanatics and culinary mavens something they can truly sink their teeth into—and win a cool £1 million along the way! That’s right. Beyond the greasy wrappers, crispy fries, and oh-so-sweet soft-serve ice cream, the fast food giant has cooked up something truly extraordinary.

But what is the Burger King Whopper Campaign about? Before we dig in, let’s take a quick look at the origin story.

The first Whopper

If you go by Burger King’s own account of its history, the company was started in 1954 by James W. McLamore and David Edgerton in Miami, Florida. Other sources trace Burger King back to Insta-Burger King, a company founded in 1953 by Matthew Burns and Keith Kramer in Jacksonville, Florida.

At the time (and even today) its biggest competitor was McDonald’s who were leagues ahead of BK in sales and profitability. McLamore and Edgerton saw that McDonald’s was selling small hamburgers and in 1957, introduced the Whopper as its signature product.

1957 Burger King Whopper | RetroNewsNow on X

Today, the iconic Whopper is synonymous with the BK brand and stands as an icon that is instantly recognisable around the world, selling 2.1 billion Whoppers every year.

Since its humble beginnings, the flame-grilled sandwich has come a long way, and for a company that encourages its consumers to have it their way, the Million Pound Whopper Contest was a stroke of genius.

Burger King’s ‘Million Dollar Whopper Contest’ 

On February 5th, 2024, the £1 Million Burger King Whopper Campaign launched where they gave their consumers the power to use their imaginations to create the next Burger King sandwich sold across their U.S. locations for a limited time.

The current Whopper gives consumers 200,000 possible combinations that they can choose from, but if you’ve ever added some savoury, sweet or sour ingredients to your Whopper and wanted to share your creation with the world, then the Burger King Whopper Campaign was it.

Created with a 1/4 pound patty with some classic toppings, the Whopper has been through a whirlwind of changes throughout the years, with the BK team trying out different combos—from the Ghost Pepper Whopper to the Angry Whopper and more.

But now, they’ve shifted the power of creating the next big sandwich to its guests. Here’s what guests did to enter the contest.

Step 1: Burger King consumers either visited their website or app and submitted their creations using their free Royal Perks account (entries ended on 17th March 2024).

Step 2: Guests then had to follow the prompts to submit their Whopper concept, which can have up to eight toppings.

Contest submission page | The Today Show

Step 3: Once the idea was submitted, AI generated a preview of their burger and even came with a nifty jingle along with a thematic background. Guests could download their creations and share them on their social media platforms.

The top 3 submissions will get their creators a visit to Burger King’s headquarters in Miami to refine their concepts. All 3 submissions will then be available on the BK menus nationwide for a limited time so that consumers can try them and vote for their favourite. The sandwich with the most number of votes will go home with the £1 million cash prize.

Before we move on to the marketing side of the campaign and what this means for businesses thinking about incorporating AI into their campaigns, we know you’re dying to see some of the submissions. So here you go. But be warned, some submissions may leave you feeling a bit queasy.

Million Dollar Whopper Contest Submission | Reddit
Million Dollar Whopper Contest Submission | Reddit
Million Dollar Whopper Contest Submission | Reddit
Million Dollar Whopper Contest Submission | Reddit

Of course, some submissions were much more palatable, but let’s face it, we all want to see the more ‘creative’ submissions, right?

Now that we’re all caught up (and fairly nauseous), it’s time to put on our marketing hats and talk about how the contest is changing the way brands use AI in their campaigns to draw in more engagement.

Harnessing AI for marketing—taking a page out of BK’s playbook

As we come face to face with modern technologies, brands are trying (as much as possible) to engage with their audiences and that’s where the conversation around AI and marketing gets interesting.

Even though AI has been around for a while, companies still prefer to go the traditional route without investing in digital transformation. Burger King is no stranger to this as mentioned by its CMO, Pat O’Toole.

Here are the insights you need to know about the Burger King Whopper Campaign which harnessed AI for its marketing strategy.

AI and consumer engagement

The entire campaign revolves around using AI technology to engage customers in a very personalised way. Participants had the chance to create their own Whopper with an unlimited number of ingredients.

They used their iconic slogan ‘Have it your way’ and used it to drive their 2024 campaign with a little help from AI where customers were able to visualise their creations and generate a unique jingle to go along with the Whopper.

The campaign was a good example of using AI to bring consumer engagement to the modern day. This marks a huge leap towards personalisation where customers have the freedom to interact with a brand in new and exciting ways.

For brands that are looking to adopt AI into their campaigns, BK’s strategy can be viewed as a prime example that pushes boundaries but does not do so in a way that alienates customers who aren’t tech-savvy. It’s about making a lasting impact with AI—minus the confusion and complexities that come with it.

First-party data for personalisation

While the contest may have been free, Burger King’s use of first-party data using its Royal Perks loyalty program helped build personalised campaigns that targeted customer loyalty.

With a commitment to understanding and delivering on individual preferences, BK analysed their consumer behaviour through the program to tailor marketing campaigns and offers that appeal to every customer.

The contest encouraged more and more BK consumers to join the program which in turn gave the fast food chain more first-party data that would enable them to deliver specialised messages that resonate with them—driving long-term loyalty.

Brand heritage and modern marketing

Burger King reinvented their slogan ‘Have it your way’ into the Burger King Whopper Campaign. This decision shows the impact that brand heritage has on contemporary audiences.

Burger King Million Dollar Whopper Contest | Burger King

Many times businesses abandon important parts of their heritage to rebuild brands. While some may be able to succeed, others stay true to their brand to honour the brand’s history while highlighting their evolution to meet today’s customer expectations.

By updating iconic elements of a brand with a modern twist, much in the way Burger King did, brands can bridge the gap between trends and nostalgia to bring new and long-time consumers together.

If your brand is looking to make the same market impact without altering too much of its DNA, then revisit the branding elements that worked and which ones are still very much a part of your brand. Revisiting them can help you bring in more excitement and rejuvenate your customer’s interest in your brand with more freedom to interact and engage.

Digital and physical customer experiences

Omnichannel strategies are important. Burger King emphasises this by integrating their digital marketing with their in-store experiences. It makes for a cohesive experience whether they’re interacting online or offline.

While guests had a chance to create their own Whoppers online, they’re also being given the ability to experience the fruits of their online labour by getting a taste of the best submissions across the country. Not only does it create a brand that values its customer’s perspectives, but it also creates a sense of community.

Using AI doesn’t mean we get to forget the in-person interactions, it’s just one way to make sure that they include every single consumer through multiple platforms.

For companies that are looking to improve their customer experience, integration and consistency are going to be key to ramping up your efforts across all marketing channels.

Continuous learning for marketers

If you look at Burger King’s CMO, Pat O’Toole, he transitioned from PepsiCo to Burger King and the impact he’s made in the company highlights the importance of continuous learning—something that modern-day leaders should also subscribe to.

AI is here to stay and there’s no getting around it. It’s important to stay ahead of the latest game-changers and what other brands are doing with AI at the forefront of their marketing efforts. For marketing teams, this means finding new tools and methods to drive marketing success is all part of a forward-thinking and dynamic approach that cannot be overlooked.

While AI is nowhere near stopping its advancements in the modern world, marketers need to welcome these mechanisms into their strategies rather than wait for the AI revolution to pass them by while others continue to excel.

Extracting the essential ingredients from the $1 Million Burger King Whopper Campaign

As the journey through the Burger King Whopper Campaign comes to a close one thing’s for certain, it wasn’t all about a burger. It was about a brand boldly flipping the script on traditional marketing.

From the first bite to the last, the Burger King Whopper campaign has left a lasting impression on the fast-food industry and the world of marketing. It showed businesses that daring to do something different can pay off and end up capturing the imaginations of millions.
If you found inspiration in this campaign, you may just have the next big idea simmering under the surface waiting for you to take a big, bold step towards a marketing strategy that delivers the right amount of punch!