By Jamie Turner, who forgives Mrs. Moore for flunking him out of first grade.
Jamie is also the Chief Content Officer of the 60 Second Marketer.
1. Marketers have been studying the McDonald's vs. Burger King case study for years;
2. Who's winning the battle? Read on to find out.
For the past several years, Burger King has been knocking it out-of-the-park with a new, irreverent marketing campaign and a re-invigorated brand. They've accomplished this by supercharging their tired, old advertising campaign and by courting "super fans" -- the 18- to 34-year-olds who account for half of all the visits to Burger King restaurants.
But times have changed for the brand. High unemployment and healthier eating habits have chipped away at Burger King's core customer. According to the Wall Street Journal, Burger King's same store sales in the U.S. and Canada have declined 4.6% recently while McDonald's posted a same-store sales growth of 2.5% during the same period.
What happened? One argument is that Burger King focused on the super fans for too long, thereby alienating women, children and other customers. Others argue that Burger King's quirky ad campaigns began to wear thin after several years.
But focusing on a core customer isn't a bad strategy. After all, it's sometimes easier to get an existing customer to buy more than it is to get a new customer to buy the first time. Nobody can fault Burger King for that approach.
And the argument that Burger King's quirky ads were to blame doesn't hold water, either. (See sample ad above.) After all, the ad campaign helped Burger King post 20 consecutive quarters of same-store sales growth in the U.S. and Canada through its fiscal third quarter of 2009. And besides, what were they supposed to do, run boring ads?
The challenges Burger King is facing have nothing to do with their marketing program. But they have everything to do with the changing tastes of their customer-base. According to one marketing research group, people 18 to 34 cut their consumption of fast-food meals while increasing the number of meals they ate at fast-casual restaurant chains (which, one might assume, offer a wider variety of healthy options).
During this period, McDonald's has been working to provide options that appeal to a more contemporary palette. They promote healthy alternatives to some of their fried foods and have introduced Snack Wraps to meet consumer demand for smaller, healthier snacks rather than larger, more substantial meals.
What can you learn from the Burger King vs. McDonald's Case Study? Several things:
1) Don't be lulled into believing a short-term strategy will work over the long haul. Burger King needed to kick-start their sales. They did that by focusing on core customers. But focusing too much attention on core customers can sometimes result in missing new trends and new approaches.
2) Don't assume every sales decline is the fault of the ad campaign. It's easy to point fingers and to blame a quirky ad campaign when sales drop. But, as we mentioned earlier, the alternative to running a highly-visible, quirky ad campaign is to run a low-visibility, boring ad campaign. That's a bad plan.
3) Today's little blip may be tomorrow's big win. It's hard and expensive to keep track of the changing tastes of the marketplace. But if you don't honor the consumer's changing tastes, you'll be left in the dust when one of your competitors leverages it to their success.
What are you doing to keep track of consumer's changing tastes? How are you making sure your company stays ahead of the curve?
Those are the questions you need to ask yourself. And those are the questions that, when asked, will keep you in business for the long-haul.
Jamie Turner is the Chief Content Officer of The 60 Second Marketer, an online magazine brought to you by BKV Digital and Direct Response. He lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia and he hopes you sign up for The 60 Second Marketer weekly eNewsletter. It provides new tools, tips and tutorials to marketers of all stripes.
Jamie also consults businesses on ways they can improve the ROI of their marketing programs and is a frequent speaker at universities, trade shows and marketing conferences around the globe. All of these accomplishments would be very surprising to Mrs. Moore, who flunked Jamie out of first grade, much to his dismay. But he forgives her. Really, he does.