Fast food marketing

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Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

23 November 2020

Fast food marketing: Avoid inside-out thinking

This is going to sound like a slam on White Castle, but it’s not. It’s just that the fast food chain is promoting an element that’s representative of what ails most fast food marketing. Most of it looks inside-out.

Rather than outside-in.

fast food marketingLet me explain. White Castle, actually one of the better fast food brands, offers a Crave Clutch delivery package with meals that are “the perfect choice for family meals and gatherings.” The brand leverages a dubious fact, saying it invented carryout when it toyed with the idea in the 1930s.

Whether the latter claim is true or not is beside the point. Whether it creates preference is not.

Fast food marketing suffers from an error common to many categories. Everything is about the company or brand. Not about the user, whose emotional identification with fast food brands remains soft.

Fast food chains often try to gain market share by either rotating items on their menu. Buying up new locations. Or offering cheaper deals. That just tells target audiences to shop around, without demonstrating any loyalty to specific brand. It’s all akin to the dilemma craft beers find themselves in, a web story you can view here.

“Fast food marketers, look for the emotion. Not what you offer. Otherwise, you remain spinning in the fast food marketing cycle.”

Fast food marketing should create long-term preference

There are only a few fast food chains with true preference. Chief among them is Chick-fil-A, which has the most sales per location of them all. And yet, what is its key? Its brand.

Unlike most fast food marketing, Chick-fil-A doesn’t promote cheap deals or keep changing its menu. Its brand actually means something to people. While its current campaign may seem corny to some, it actually features the customer. And fits within the brand promise of warm feelings.

detroit 2016 02 03 16 31 37The funny thing is that position isn’t terribly special. But it is in fast food because so few brands claim anything. McDonalds remains No. 1 because of its many locations, heritage and a brand that says “fun.”

The rest? Who knows? So, instead they use cliches like “crave” or make claims based on operations from nearly 100 years ago. It’s always what fast food brand X is. Not who fast food brand X’s customer is.

Warm feelings and fun are a bit inside-out too. But they also explain the emotions customers feel when they go into Chick-fil-A or McDonalds.

Fast food marketers, look for the emotion. Not what you offer. Otherwise, you remain spinning in the fast food marketing cycle that my increase short-term sales. And do nothing to create long-term preference.

Fast Food Marketing

Click for the Fast Food Web Story

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