The Tom Dougherty Blog


Posts tagged “Burger King”

Wendy’s claiming #2 is the easy part, #1 is another story

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With sales of $8.5 billion in 2011, Wendy’s just the claimed number 2 spot, moving ahead of Burger King but was well short of McDonald’s $34.2 billion. This second place battle of the pygmies needs to find greater meaning in the market if either ever wants a crack at McDonalds.

My worry for Wendy’s is that its rise will prompt it to confuse activity with accomplishment. Yes, from a marketing perspective, Wendy’s is doing things, but its rise has been relative to Burger King’s inconsistent execution of any strategy.

Most of our battles at Stealing Share when rebranding companies is changing the internal mindset of those companies. Positive news, like Wendy’s received, provides a false sense of security. Fortune favors the bold and, if my past experience has taught me anything, it is that a third place Wendy’s would be strategically more bold than a second place Wendy’s.

Strategically, Wendy’s should set its sights on the white whale: McDonald’s. At the moment, however, it seems to be doing the same as Burger King by marketing product instead of brand. Copy in a recent Wendy’s ads goes: “No matter who you are, Wendy’s will make a Dave’s Hot and Juicy Cheeseburger fresh just for you, so its special, just like you.” Give me a moment while I my eyes stop rolling. Beyond its campy verbiage, it provides no switching trigger for the customer. Does anyone believe they would be refused service when they go to a fast food restaurant? Or that a competitor will not make hamburgers?

McDonald’s has been successful due to its message clarity, consistency and firm brand meaning of “fun.” In fact, that brand promise is represented as an experience rather then product.

Wendy’s is certainly in a good position. Number two is nothing to scoff at. But it will take focus to clear the gap with McDonalds and being able to spot the pivotal brand difference between its brand  and the Mickey-Dee one.

Why "process driven" Burger King can't break its #2 position

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On a frequent basis, Stealing Share will take a look at various markets for companies who are in position to steal market share. We send information about our process and, as brand strategists, we try to get across in a small amount of information the absolutely imperative effect brand has on a company’s success.

These attempts do not always gain the traction we would hope as many companies keep their own rose colored glasses on because taking a critical and honest look at their brands is not often an easy or comfortable task.

However, we have never had this information returned to us by the company with our unopened envelope hidden inside a new hand-addressed envelope, noting our information as unsolicited. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just trash it?

That returned letter was from Burger King, a brand whose existence in the fast food hamburger chain market has been restricted to second place, and lower than that when looking at the totem pole of overall fast food chains.

We now know why.

Burger King is obviously a company that appears to be so process driven that it takes to the time to mail back an unopened envelope rather than evaluate its contents. It is essentially claiming that it wants it to be known that: “When pursuing the success of our company and the preference of our brand, Burger King will stop at nothing short of ignorance to remain status quo.”

Napoleon once said, “If the art of war were nothing but the art of avoiding risks, glory would become the providence of mediocre minds.” Stealing market share does not involve avoiding risk. It involves being bold, memorable and intensive to your market. One can only surmise from the directness at which Burger King avoided what was so very desperate to its brand’s success that it has found comfort in its stasis.

Perhaps in time, having McDonalds eat its lunch will prompt a departure from mediocrity. In the meantime, if this is the care by which they value its brand, my suggestion to the private equity firm that bought Burger King is to invest elsewhere. Get out when you can.

Fast food must beef up their brands and not their burgers

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At Stealing Share, we talk a lot about the importance of creating brand messaging that goes beyond the category tables stakes, or the bare minimum to compete in the category. In most markets, these table stakes are values like price, efficacy, proximity, etc., and they do little to build true brand preference.

I was browsing a few news sites today when I noticed something rather surprising. It was a new category table stake I had not yet considered within the fast-food industry… Size!

The article was for the new 1160-calorie “Meat Monster” burger from Burger King (currently only available in Japan). The burger consists of two hamburgers, a chicken breast fillet, bacon, two slices of cheese, and the standard trimmings nestled between two buns. It got me thinking how flawed a brand strategy is that’s based on sheer size.

Looking deeper into the category, there are competing sandwiches like KFC’s “Double Down” (a sandwich with impromptu buns made of fried chicken), Hardee’s “Monster Thickburger,” (a heart-stopping 1420-calorie burger) or Wendy’s “Baconator” (its name is self explanatory).

When we talk about table stakes, the point we always stress is that, while table stakes might provide some immediate benefits, their lasting effect on the target consumer is short-lived. At the end of the day, “more for less” is the reason why the meat Taco Bell uses is made using very little meat.

Back in 1993, the “Whopper” was all about size and how it was the biggest in the industry. By today’s standards, it is one of the more conservatively sized burgers. Just imagine. If the brand was for people who sacrificed “time” but not “taste”, the opportunity for preference grows substantially. Being a customer with “discerning taste” seems a much more appealing idea than simply being consumers who must consume as much as they possibly can.

Fast-food chains need to take a hard as their brands, understand who their consumer is and what dictates choice, and then take new brand positioning to reflect that. Otherwise, before long an episode of “Man vs. Food” will be any of us at Burger King – and that is without even upgrading to King size.

Burger King continues to flounder

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Natalia Franco, Burger King’s now past Executive Vice-President Global Chief Marking Officer, is out of the position after only nine months. I wonder if she ever got unpacked?

I certainly hope that Burger King did not think that all of its problems could be solved during her short tenure with the company. Its problems run a lot deeper than what can be fixed in that short period of time as brand influence is a long-term haul. Not a short one.

But after seeing what they did in conjunction with letting Ms. Franco go, I have a better understanding of what is going on in the company.

It looks as though that there will not be a single executive in the entire company whose only responsibility is marketing the company. Rather, that role is now divided between Jonathan Fitzpatrick, the new VP-chief brand and operations officer, and Steve Wiborg, exec VP and president-North America. The way I read it, marketing will now be incorporated into operations.

I’m not too convinced this is the right approach for a brand that’s been floundering for some time now. (I have never understood how the king-constumed man created preference. It was a blatant attempt at developing the BK version of Ronald McDonald, but it lacked any emotional reason for being.) When a brand is compromised, and Burger King’s certainly is, it becomes even more important to work on building the brand with a single focus. While the fast food industry in general has some serious brand-related issues, Burger King is among the most troubled. Rather than put finer focus on their brand, they have opted to make their marketing (and brand building) a simple job function of operations.

This is really an example of confusing activity with accomplishment. By eliminating a corporate head of marketing, Burger King’s management probably believes it has “streamlined” the marketing function by combining it with operations.

It might streamline some things but not having a brand steward, empowered to keep the focus going, leads to executives sharing responsibilities and often diverting them from their marketing tasks. Consider this: In a recent study published in the Wall Street Journal, when people multitask they do each task 30% worse than if they only did a single task at a time. The legions of Burger King franchises owners must be hoping this move does not reduce Burger King’s marketing effectiveness by 30%. I don’t think they could survive that.

Burger King must put a finer focus on their brand and not throw it out as parts to be picked up by operations. Its brand should mean more to them than that.

A lesson about awareness

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The image says it all. I bring this up not because of outrage, but because it demonstrates the desperation many brands feel that leads to wrongheaded attempts to gain awareness. (As though no one is aware of Burger King.)

There are two points to be made here. Obviously, Burger King had no idea what to say when they unveiled this a year ago – and that’s one reason why it’s losing market share. (McDonald’s currently has about three times the market share owned by Burger King in the quick-service sector.)

Even more so, did they ever consider who is the target audience? Who are they speaking to? Men? Do men want to eat this sandwich, considering the context? Women?

I’ve come across this before. We once worked for a company in B2B that wanted to go a route similar to this. Awareness was a concern for them, but they didn’t understand that (at that time) that awareness is created by creating preference. Awareness alone means nothing.

We’re all aware of a lot of brands, but we filter them out if we don’t prefer them. Going for the shock value in the misguided attempt to increase awareness is money wasted. Awareness is achieved by being meaningful in the process of creating preference.

It’s this kind of desperation at reaching for awareness – either without meaning or meaning that hasn’t been thought through strategically – that makes brands irrelevant.

Starbucks and Burger King is only a good match for one of them

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In another example of a brand going bad, we see that Starbucks and its brand, Seattle’s Best, will now be offered at Burger King. From a brand perspective, that’s like a Movado watch being sold at Safeway. What does it make you think of Movado?

From Burger King’s standpoint, it makes sense in a variety of ways. McDonald’s has increased its leadership position by offering coffee above the burnt-on-the-burner type the fast-food industry has offered for years. It also has the potential to elevate a BK brand that has lost its way.

That is, if the Starbucks brand still had power.

As I’ve said before, the Starbucks brand used to be about a greater experience and it invented a category of elite coffee that didn’t exist before. However, the market has gone from immature to mature as you can get high-quality coffee at the grocery store. Even the greater experience has been matched or even exceeded.

Starbucks is one of a handful of great brands that have fallen in disarray, confused about what its new brand should be. (Kmart comes to mind.) But there is a way for them to capture the highest emotional intensities in the market and reclaim a frontrunner position. (Even Sears could if it looked to something else.) Sometimes, a brand partnership makes sense, such as FedEx buying Kinko’s. Both are “peace of mind” brands.

But going the way of Burger King doesn’t fix the brand problem for Starbucks.