Despite bad press and the knowledge we all know that its food is extremely unhealthy for you, McDonald’s continues to thrive. Yes, Happy Meals last six months before it starts decomposing. Yes, the obesity problem in America, especially among our youth, can be partly attributed to McDonald’s.

Yet, its third-quarter profit increased by 10 percent (a whopping number considering its size in the Quick Service Restaurant market) and its stock have surged.

How do you account for that? It’s an easy answer: McDonald’s has a brand. And brand trumps everything. It trumps bad press, an unhealthy reputation and a field full of competitors.

And that’s because a meaningful brand is based on emotion, which drives human behavior, whether we care to admit it or not. You could, for example, explain all the ways the Droid is technically better than the iPhone (the rational reasons) and it won’t make a difference. The emotional drivers of the iPhone override all the rational reasons to buy.

mcdonalds

I bring this up because, lately, the mainstream press has asked me to comment on a handful of struggling QSR brands, such as Bojangles, KFC and Papa John’s. And they aren’t alone. Burger King, Wendy’s and Arby’s are falling faster and faster behind McDonald’s as they continue failing to find that emotional brand that drives preference.

My advice is to stop battling on price, marketing new products that come and coming up with catchy and clever taglines that mean nothing to the market. Instead, they should uncover the emotional drivers in your target audience – and stick with it.

Uncovering those drivers is what we do at Stealing Share, and I have a feeling there are few industries that need our help more than those in the QSR category. That even includes the regional chains, like Burgerville, Dairy Queen and Church’s Chicken – and all the rest.

They are all seeing market share stolen by the market leader.