Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

Free WiFi At McDonald’s Is Not A Run At Starbucks

with one comment

As of last Friday, you can now access free WiFi at almost all McDonald’s locations in the US. While much coverage of this has stated that McDonald’s is trying to take their brand more upscale, I believe that this misses the mark on their brand positioning.

The McDonald’s brand means different things to different people, but can be roughly separated into two groups. The first group is children, for whom the brand represents fun. The other group is almost all adults, who see McDonald’s as a convenience. The new WiFi offerings strengthens their brand’s position for both of these groups. Kids can now download the latest games, sometimes exclusive to McDonald’s to their handheld gaming devices.

And for the rest of us, it makes our 15 minute lunch stop at McDonald’s even more convenient. We can check our work email quickly, but locations aren’t taking down their signs stating something to the effect of ‘Please don’t stay longer than 30 minutes.’

This is the key difference between the brands of McDonald’s and Starbucks. Starbucks has long positioned themselves as a relaxing, home away from home. Free WiFi is a part of that positioning as you are encouraged to stay a while and soak in the atmosphere and culture (Starbucks even offers coupons for free music downloads on iTunes). McDonald’s is not moving in that direction.

However, as the only WiFi game in town, Starbucks did get the benefit of attracting customers that didn’t really care for their brand position but wanted the convenience of quickly checking their email. It is these customers that McDonald’s is trying to win back.

What do you think? Is this a bigger threat to Starbucks?


Written by benwisebranding

January 18, 2010 at 6:10 pm

One Response

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  1. wow that’s cool you have free wifi at both starbucks and McD in your area. In Eurpore starbucks charges a lot for an inconvenient wifi connection + my iphone 3G does not even work in the starbucks near my office.
    Hopefully in a few years they will import this idea from their US counterpart.


    January 18, 2010 at 6:31 pm

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