Recently, I read an interesting article on cooperative competition by Chris Wren, who writes for Branding Strategy Insider.
Mr. Wren starts by describing an interaction between McDonald’s and Burger King in Argentina. On McHappy Day, which dedicates the proceeds of sales of Big Macs to fighting childhood cancers, Burger King responded by deciding not to sell Whoppers and asking customers to help McDonald’s as much money as possible by buying a Big Mac.
Burger King customers responded positively to the request, and many people were thrilled when “the King” visited a McDonald’s to promote the campaign.
Interesting, eh, but perhaps not as unusual as one might think. Mr. Wren points to an article by Paul Friederichsen, which says “ … brands must recognize that in the face of growing challenges, it is no longer enough to provide a quality product or good service. Brands must also provide evidence of a ‘higher calling’—a desire to build a legacy—their legacy.” In my opinion, cooperative competition will likely become more important as companies seek to court millennials whose reputation for seeking out socially conscious brands is well documented.
Here are the three ways in which cooperative competition can benefit brands.
It strengthens the “higher calling” message
Everyone knows that companies are in business to make money, but cooperative competition is transcendent. Mr. Wren cites the example of Tesla supporting open source regarding its intellectual property. By encouraging customers to buy a Big Mac on McHappy Day, Burger King was reinforcing the message that helping children with cancer was paramount.
It humanizes the brand
Mr. Wren points out that “ … it’s much more than defining personality traits and changing the style of communication. It’s about actions.” He then notes that charismatic CEOs have taken stands on issues that need support. Check out his article about Patagonia, IKEA, and Salesforce.
It creates an opportunity for reciprocity
One of the executives behind the Burger King campaign commented that his client loved that asking customers to buy from McDonald’s was the kind of thing Burger King would do but McDonald’s probably would not.
Years ago, at a networking event in California, I spoke to a fellow professional who had recently moved to Portland. She commented on being shocked at how withholding her peers were. “They seem to be afraid to help each other out,” she said. “In California, my partners and I were always making referrals when we didn’t have capacity or thought someone else could do a better job. We always found that came back to us in good ways.”