This $2 Burger King meal is actually a genius data collection scheme

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Burger King's latest deal is a genius data collection scheme.

In today’s tech-focused world, data is the most valuable commodity—literally. Companies are constantly looking for new ways to obtain data from consumers so it can be used to target ads, drive sales, and even sway world events.

Even the fast-food industry is in on data collection. Burger King’s new $2 Snack Box is the latest example of a company using a genius marketing ploy to get consumers to hand over their personal data.

Costly Food

No one is going to argue that fast food is good for you. Its negative health effects are well-documented and its quality isn’t that great. Yet, millions of people still visit their local McDonald’s every day.

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Burger King’s new $2 meal features 10 chicken nuggets, a medium fry, a cheeseburger, and a small soda. That’s a lot of food for two dollars. The price immediately raises questions about the quality of the food. People automatically assume that the deal is too good to be true because of what the food is made of. Twitter had a field day with this on Friday.

In reality, though, the truth is a lot sneakier. Even with their ridiculously discounted wholesale prices, fast food chains can’t turn a profit off of your $2 Snack Box. They hope that customers order something else while to pad the margins. However, the real value doesn’t have anything to do with food sales.

The new bargain meal comes with a caveat—it has to be ordered from the official BK app. Herein lies the motivation for taking a loss upfront. When customers use its app, Burger King gets access to a treasure trove of personal data.

It learns what foods they like, who responds to certain marketing promotions, patterns in the way people order, and much more. That doesn’t even include typical data like names, phone numbers, and email addresses.

The worst part is that Burger King and other chains even tell customers that their data will be used for ad targeting, market research, and communication. Yet, people hand over their information anyway.

Why? Doing so lets them snag a ridiculously good deal on fast food.

Oh Well

Due to the impact of COVID-19, companies are looking for ways to increase digital sales. Fast food restaurants have turned to in-app promotions to lure users in with cheap food. Burger King’s $2 Snack Box certainly isn’t the only deal of its kind. The trend also isn’t going to disappear anytime soon.

José Cil, the CEO of Restaurant Brands International (the parent company of McDonald’s, Burger King, and others), said in an August investors call, “Moving into the back half of the year, we’ll continue to sharpen our approach to the value for money equation, especially given the uncertainty the consumer is facing.”

That means consumers can expect more in-app only deals from their favorite fast-food chains. They should also expect to surrender their personal data in order to get $2 Snack Boxes and similar offerings.

Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t download Burger King’s or any other fast-food chain’s app. It simply serves as a reminder that good deals are good deals for a reason. In this case, you are putting your personal data up for grabs. You’ll probably find yourself ordering BK more often as the chain learns your preferences and targets its marketing to your tastes.

On the other hand, most companies already have your personal data anyway. You might as well let them give you a meal for it.

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