Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

Posts Tagged ‘McDonald’s

Burger King Changes Course in the UK

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The Burger King 'King'For years, Burger King has played second fiddle to McDonald’s. Their response has been to try to entice users with promotional offers. Considering that a distressed Burger King was just sold to 3G Capital Management, the brand strategy based around promotional offers wasn’t a bit hit. In the year to June 30, sales fell by over 2% while their key competitors, McDonald’s and Subway, both grew sales. Under new management, the fast-food brand is changing course for the better.

The Problem with Promotions

Promotions are often a necessary part of brand marketing, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I can accept that. But a strategy based around promotions is inherently too short-term focused. Promotions might get customers in the door, but unless you have an amazing and differentiated product (something extremely difficult to do in the fast-food business), it will never garner the loyalty required to build a sustainable brand.

Burger King’s promotions could easily be matched or beaten by competitors and never created a lasting, emotional connection with customers.

The New Way

Burger King has launched a new campaign that is centered around their iconic King character. The campaign will be tied into Foursquare, as well as other social and digital ads promoting the same message. The obvious benefit of this campaign is the introduction of a brand character that has the potential to create an emotional connection with customers, something sorely lacking in their brand strategy. As well, it does a great job tying in multiple media channels to reach different customers in the manner best suited to them. This helps create an experience out of the campaign, another effective way of providing an emotional benefit.

Unfortunately, Burger King isn’t moving far enough from their old ways, as following the King will lead customers to discounts and special offers.

A move in the right direction, but still a few steps too short!

What do you think? Will the change help Burger King turn their sales around?


Written by benwisebranding

September 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

Is McDonald’s Changing Their Target?

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For a long time, the McDonald’s brand had two targets: kids and their parents. In the past few years, their marketing campaigns (eg “I’m Loving It”) and menu changes (eg Salads) have shown an effort to expand the brand into other target consumers, namely everyone in between the two original groups.

Further confirming this trend, McDonald’s will be ending their long-time sponsorship deal with Sesame Street. One can argue about the hypocrisy of Sesame Street touting childhood health issues on their show while McDonald’s provides funding, but the bottom line is that it is hard to find a source aimed at children that is more trusted and respected than Sesame Street.

Dropping this sponsorship is a big deal for McDonald’s! It signals that the brand isn’t just moving toward the 18-35 demographic (ie older than kids and younger than parents), but that they are actively moving away from children. Most 25-year-old would view Sesame Street as part of their childhood, not something they associate with now. McDonald’s must view this demographic as potentially more lucrative or believe that they won’t lose kids even if they don’t target them.

This is a conscious decision to prioritize a new target segment over their old one. That said, transitioning a brand’s target segment doesn’t happen overnight. McDonald’s restaurants will still be full of children for several years, but don’t expect to see many new stores being built with a playground.

What do you think? Is dropping the Sesame Street sponsorship a good move for the McDonald’s brand?

Written by benwisebranding

March 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Starbucks Benefits From A Portfolio Of Brands

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Since Starbucks invented the mass market for upscale coffee shops, there has been great competition in this space among quick serve restaurants (QSR). McDonald’s is increasingly pushing coffee and has launched their posh McCafe’s across the US. Now Burger King is entering the fray with the signing of a deal with the Seattle’s Best coffee brand.

The most interesting part of this deal is that Seattle’s Best is actually owned by Starbucks. Starbucks is cleverly using a portfolio of brands to reach a more diverse set of consumer without sacrificing the integrity of their core brand.

The Starbucks brand is positioned as your ‘home away from home’. They could not credibly maintain this position if they were to offer their coffee through fast food chains like Burger King (although I believe they are pushing the boundaries on their brand already with instant coffee for the home). However, the number of consumers of fancy coffee is increasing and are looking for more product distribution. Emerging segments are more concerned with the coffee than the atmosphere.
Starbucks has realized that the market for upscale coffee is becoming more mainstream, and thus consumers are willing to purchase it on a more regular basis from more traditional outlets. By selling Seattle’s Best instead of their Starbucks branded coffee ensures that they do not miss out on this growing segment of the market. And, the core Starbucks brand is untouched and able to remain your ‘home away from home’.

What do you think? Is Starbucks making good use of a portfolio of brands?

Written by benwisebranding

February 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm


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With the Olympics Games in full swing, consumers are bombarded with brand sponsorships wherever they look. In an event of this nature, sponsors must be sure to deliver on two things in order to create emotional benefits for their consumers.

First, timeliness is crucial. Events by their nature are for a fixed time and so promotional branding must be done accordingly. Five minutes after Canada won their first gold medal, there were sponsored commercials celebrating the event and creating a strong emotional bond between the brand and the fans.

Second, any brand promotion must be genuine in order to create a real relationship between the brand and their consumers. Without this sincerity, consumers will not form a relationship with the brand.

A few days ago, McDonald’s failed on both of these accounts. Their locations are now equipped with the latest medal count for the country. In one location, the latest medal count was still at zero, despite the country having won three medals already. While to some this may not seem like a big deal, it is a clear violation of both of the above principles.

In the eyes of consumers at that location, McDonald’s was not following through in a timely manner, implying that the sponsorship and relationship with the event was not a priority for them, removing the sincerity of their efforts.

These are small things, but they separate the average brands from the great brands.

What do you think? Does this harm McDonalds’ brand?

Written by benwisebranding

February 16, 2010 at 11:42 pm

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

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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