Burger King says it’s time to play hard
November 4, 2020

After years of slumbering markets and boring and redundant communication strategies, the crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is an opportunity to see the creative and strategic spirit of advertising flourish again.

The economy is a delicate ecosystem made up of strategies and communication between the parties, like a chess match, the game has begun. Burger King moved first!

What happened?

The typical Burger King strategy has long been comparative. That is to discredit McDonald’s. In Italy, we do not realize it because in Europe this method of communication is illegal.
However, for a few days, worldwide, it is doing exactly the opposite.

The multinational recently launched a specific invitation to its followers with a social post, never seen in the history of their brand. In essence, it says: the economic situation is serious, bars and restaurants are in danger of closing, please buy from our competitors.

Is it right for a brand to support competitors during this time?

The answer is very positive, not only in ethical terms but also in terms of convenience. In fact, we must consider that the main source of energy for world markets and macroeconomics is not money but mathematics. And it is by starting from the mathematical language that in many cases the right answer is found to deal with the serious mood swings of the stock exchanges.

According to behavioral economics, in fact, in times of macroeconomic crisis, the famous concept of the “prisoner’s dilemma” applies. It is a mathematical game where the systems of power are essentially reversed. This is not a game where one component wins and the other loses, but we are talking about a collaborative game where either you win all together, or you lose all together.

What is the “Prisoner’s Dilemma”?

“Two suspects, A and B, are arrested by the police. The police do not have sufficient evidence to find the culprit and, after locking the two prisoners in two different cells, interrogate both of them offering them the following perspectives: if one confesses and the other is silent, whoever has not confessed will serve 10 years in prison while the other will be free; if both are silent, then the police will sentence them to only one year in prison; if, on the other hand, they both confess the sentence to be served will be equal to 6 years prison. Each prisoner can reflect on the strategy to choose between, in fact, confessing or keeping quiet. In any case, neither prisoner will be able to know the choice made by the other prisoner. ”

So, the question this dilemma poses is: What will happen? How will the two prisoners behave?”

As summarized in the table it is possible to see how many years in prison the suspects will have to endure. The most difficult picture is highlighted when one contradicts or “does not help the other”, in which case one of the two will serve the sentence of twenty years. If the two collaborate, confirming each other their theories, they would serve together with a minimum sentence.

The collaboration of the two condemned is called “Nash Equilibrium” and was theorized by the mathematician of the same name in 1950:

“A game can be described in terms of strategies, which the players must follow in their moves: the equilibrium exists, when no one can unilaterally improve their behavior. To change, we need to act together. “

The collaborative spirit is not entrusted to chance but is the result of a state of mind towards which the two prisoners are disposed of. Humility, desire to win together, empathy towards competitors.

As we have said, the collaborative spirit theorized in mathematics has the same validity in the economic field. When competitors face a common difficulty, the best strategy is to work together against the common enemy.

It is likely that Burger King, in a more or less conscious way, started a game that for years had not been played by large companies.

Perhaps the time has come to support the global market by trying to become more collaborative, to stem the risks of a systemic crisis. In this global village where everything is connected, the crisis of an individual can cause the market to tear apart with a domino effect.

The game starts now, the goal is to reach Nash equilibrium.
Burger King moved first. Now it’s up to the other players.