There is a big big breakthrough that Burger King just cracked in Latin America, Mexico City to be precise, by breaching the tough Hungry People in Traffic™ (HPT) market. For the first time ever, the Home of the Whopper tested real-time burger delivery to cars stuck in Mexico City traffic congestion. The results were staggeringly positive, and Burger King is now looking to expand the trial service to new cities such as Los Angeles, Sao Paulo and Shanghai.
Dubbed The Traffic Jam Whopper, the delivery “on the move” project used real-time data to target Burger King fans driving along congested roads and highways. Direct-to-car delivery was promoted using push notifications and digital billboards positioned along busy roads during a month-long test of the program in Mexico City. During the trial, Burger King was also able to capture delivery sales during rush hour, a time when app orders are normally slowest. Hence converting a sales trough into a near-peak. Drivers stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic were invited to order from the app as they entered a delivery zone, roughly in a 1.9-mile radius from the closest Burger King. To ensure safety and avoid tickets, drivers could use voice commands built into the app to place the orders. Orders were limited to a Whopper combo meal, which included fries and choice of bottled Pepsi or water. (And upper limit of four meals per car).
Digital billboards and banners on the app displayed information about the progress of the orders. A countdown clock teased drivers, telling them how many minutes they had more to place orders as their cars moved through certain delivery zones. Once the order was ready, a motorcyclist with a white Burger King-branded container strapped to his bike delivered the meal to the car. Google map technology embedded into the app was used to pinpoint the driver’s exact location. An average order took about 15 minutes to complete.
Burger King has credited New York based advertising agency We Believers for assisting in ideating and developing the vehicle delivery concept. The new approach allows the burger chain to capitalize on a time of day in which the city's nightmarish traffic typically slows business.
Mexico City in fact has the worst traffic in the world (according to the latest TomTom Global Traffic index) and motorists typically spend up to 5 hours in their daily commute – which really means they are not in their houses or offices to order or receive a food delivery. Burger King saw an opportunity to generate a new revenue stream out of those hungry drivers. The Traffic Jam Whopper has increased deliveries by 63 percent during the month of April 2019 in participating restaurants. Awesome, no?
The initiative itself was initially met with skepticism. The challenges were complex: making sure real-time geo-location data was accurate enough to intercept a moving target; creating a hands-free interface to take orders in a country that has adopted stiff penalties for drivers who use cell-phones behind the wheel; and to have a menu that was easy to serve in the shortest time window. The app and its tech finally succeeded in predicting traffic density accurately; analyzing historical Waze data from Mexico -- such as average speed, journey length, possible deviations from main streets and distance from Burger King restaurants – and rightly identified ideal locations and times of the day where delivery to cars stuck in traffic was doable. Quite an achievement!
The Traffic Jam Whopper campaign has resulted in a 63 per cent increase in delivery orders for Burger King. The daily app download rate has also increased a whopping 44 times. All in all, the Traffic Jam Whopper campaign has helped Burger King become the number one fast food app in Mexico.
There is surely much for the likes of Zomato and Swiggy to learn from the Whopper experiment in Mexico. Especially in cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Delhi there is much opportunity to emulate the Traffic Jam Whopper. In fact Burger King itself could take a much awaited lead over McDonald’s, Domino’s and other QSR competitors by pouring its Latin American learnings into India at the earliest. There are thousands and thousands of Hungry People in Traffic™ (HPT) in India who could benefit from this innovation, for sure.
There are of course some detractors who think the Burger King new delivery is not such a good idea. Some of the reservations being voiced are:
- Sure, traffic is terrible. But the solution to that should be to alleviate it and improve our infrastructure, not feed people fast food they don’t need.
- Health and obesity are major concerns worldwide. Someone who drives past a Burger King every day might not stop in, but if the food comes to them so easily, then it’s much harder to curb the temptation. Risk of obesity, depression, digestive issues, heart disease and stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and early death could all increase because of the newfound and increased accessibility to fast food, which could also drive up consumption
- As it is a lot of our privacy is compromised by the multiple apps and smartphone functions. Now do we also want Burger King to further intrude and know everyday the route one takes to work or back home?
- Lane splitting is illegal in many countries (in India we don’t even know what it is!). So the two-wheelers employed will have to be statute-compliant. The bigger concern is that unless those couriers are using electric motorcycles or bikes, they would further contribute to greenhouse gas pollution in addition to what’s being already emitted by the cars stuck in traffic.
Well, concerns and reservations notwithstanding, the Mexico experiment is a big step forward not just for the food delivery business but in the use of tech in finding real time solutions that benefit consumers in an ever-changing world. The app itself looks or sounds deceptively simple but at the core of it the technology that has gone into making it a reality must have taken many years of research and hard work. Also, this is a pointer to the enhanced role that ad agencies are now playing in solutioning … not restricted just to creativity but business re-orientation. In fact this is the very space that consultancy giants have been trying to nudge themselves into. Finally an ad agency has shown that creative thinking can imbibe technology and help clients revv up business too in quantifiable terms. A whopper of an idea for sure.
Dr. Sandeep Goyal likes to keep abreast of technology developments that impact the advertising business. He has been one of the early supporters of mobile solutioning in India.
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