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BK's New 'Me Too' Differentiation Strategy

April 4, 2012

Burger King is shaking things up. The company has announced major changes to its menu and has planned restaurant remodels that will use warmer colors and invite people to sit and stay awhile.

What makes Burger King's new strategy so unusual is its striking similarity to what McDonald's has been doing for years. A number of its new items, including chicken strips, coffee drinks, salads and smoothies, sound like they come right off McDonald's menu board.

So what is Burger King's explanation?

"Consumers wanted more choices," Steve Wiborg, president of Burger King's North America operations, told the Associated Press. "Not just healthy choices, but choices they could get at the competition."

To draw attention to its new menu options, Burger King has launched a star-studded advertising campaign featuring David Beckham, Mary J. Blige, Jay Leno, Steven Tyler and others with the tagline: "Exciting things are happening at Burger King."

One spot, featuring Ms. Blige singing the praises of chicken strips to the tune of her own song "Don't Mind" has been pulled from the airwaves and Burger King's YouTube channel. Critics lambasted the spot as advancing stereotypes while the fast feeder said it pulled the commercial over licensing issues related to the song.

In another bit of BK news, the company announced it would go public again in the next three months. The chain was taken private in 2010 after being purchased by 3G Capital.

[Image: David Beckham - Burger King 2012 Commercial]


Discussion Questions:

Discussion Question: What do you think of Burger King's new strategy? Do you see points of differentiation with other fast food chains that will work to BK's advantage?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

How likely is Burger King to succeed with its new menu and marketing strategy?


Burger King's new "me too" menu might help to give some new energy to the chain, and the celebs will help to bring more attention back to the chain, but in my humble opinion, other items that need to be on the menu are consistency, cleanliness, and better supervision and training of its employees.

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David Biernbaum, Senior Marketing and Business Development Consultant, David Biernbaum Associates LLC

"Me Too" has proven itself a viable strategy many times over in retail. It appears BK has decided that eliminating the menu differences and trying to upscale their image will improve their share more than trying to do something that truly differentiates.

Paul R. Schottmiller, Senior Vice President of Strategy, Retail and Consumer Goods, Merkle

Changing one's sneakers during a fast race isn't the answer to winning. BK is what it has become and its new strategy of menu cosmetics won't change things much.

Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

This is a day late and a dollar short, so to speak. Burger King has targeted big eating males in their teens and 20s for years. This is a real disconnect. And, there isn't anything new here -- they have just copied what McDonald's is doing. I guess that's better than nothing, but innovation is in order, plus an upgrade to their service and cleanliness standards, as others have mentioned.

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Al McClain, CEO, Founder, RetailWire.com

I seriously don't get it. Growing up in Chicago, there was no way I would go for a fried/processed burger (McD's). I loved the grilled taste of a Burger King Whopper and didn't need to be reminded that I could "have it your way."

BK has always struggled to find that pure essence of Americana that delights the US consumer, delivers both a visual set of images plus draws out an emotional reaction with every impression. I haven't seen it in 20 years. The fault lies with marketing leadership at BK and their revolving door of agencies. Memory tells me that the once proud J. Walter Thompson had this account and did sound strategic work that when coupled with great tasting food and a clean store environment supported same store sales growth year over year.

New leadership at McD's is going to keep the pedal to the metal -- no let up. #2 is already #3 as Wendy's (post Dave Thomas) has maintained a likable brand image coupled with all the key components I've mentioned. Going public ... seriously?

David Slavick, Director, Loyalty & Retention, FTD.com

A good friend of mine -- you know him writing in these spaces as GMROI - prefers BK because they broil their burgers, thus reducing the fat. It's his preferred pit stop after we've finished pulverizing some innocent bullseyes at the gun range. And, this difference remains an advantage for the chain after all these years.

What's wrong with sprucing up the menu, facilities, and advertising in order to remain competitive? Would the doubters prefer that BK remain stagnant and passive? What other choice do they have, especially just prior to going public? A classy ad campaign can make all the difference. In effect, the ad campaign's secondary target audience -- after customers -- is investors.

M. Jericho Banks PhD, President, CEO, Forensic Marketing LLC

BK has a very strong point of differentiation from other major QSR burger chains: Charbroiling.

The problem with BK is not positioning, awareness, or menu. The problem is operational, it is consistency at the restaurant level.

If the flagship Whopper tastes different from restaurant to restaurant, how is the consumer to build preference for a new menu that does not taste consistent across the board? Imitating a McDonald's menu is not going to save BK. Imitating McDonald's operational and franchisee discipline might give it a fighting chance.

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Carlos Arámbula, Strategist, One Ninth & Co-founder of MarcasUSA, One Ninth, MarcasUSA LLC

The nondescript nature of "ME TOO" marketing combined with a typical apathetic short-term market reply make this effort a questionable decision. Looking at the price side of the menu would have been a better effort for this market. For newness needs taking steps to improve health measurements while keeping or improving flavors, as seen with the Pepsi New product, would most likely renew interests and get customers in the doors.


"What other choice do they have...?" Intentionally or not, I think Dr. Banks aptly described this effort: perfunctory rather than inspired; David Beckham? Exactly who IS their target market, anyway???


Very unlikely to succeed. Especially since this ad strategy continues BKs tendency to make each campaign a "Hail Mary" -- without building long-term strength.

Doug Garnett, Founder & CEO, Atomic Direct

Advertising giant David Ogilvy used to say "if you don't have anything to say...sing it." If he were alive today he would probably add "or pay a celebrity to endorse you." The problem with using commonly used celebrity endorsers is that you remember them rather than the brand advertised or the new claim. It is clearly borrowed interest. Not good for long-term brand building, unless the celebrity is a PERFECT fit.

Roberto Orci, CEO, Acento Advertising

Um, what Burger King is doing ... is nothing new and absolutely doesn't differentiate. The article even states: "What makes Burger King's new strategy so unusual is its striking similarity to what McDonald's has been doing for years." Hello -- that's NOT differentiation.

Burger King is lost but I don't think they realize what they have. Don't be like others, be yourself and expound on it. Carl's Jr. shows the marketing angle -- do what you do and sell it.

And as far as going public? Might as well and get what you can. Burger King is flaming out.


Broiling cheap "meat" doesn't make it better, but it is different. The underlying problem is the company culture as seen in the stores. There is absolutely no esprit de corps, which McD's is very strong in. They are almost always dirty in the dining room as well as the kitchen floors and restrooms. The remodels will become trashed within weeks. I wonder if people don't blame the food choices when there are really other issues because it is easier to point to those more tangible preferences. Not buying the new strategy, or the food.

Sid Raisch, President, Advantage Development System

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