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[10 comments]

BK looks to out-big McD's

February 11, 2014

You can almost hear the taunt coming from the playground. "My burger is bigger than your burger. Nah, nah, nah, nah." That, in essence, is Burger King's strategy to knock the real king of the fast good burger realm, McDonald's Big Mac, off its throne. The number-two burger chain has increased the size of its Big King sandwich so that it now outweighs the Big Mac by four ounces to 3.2.

"At Burger King, we know that size matters," says Alex Macedo, president of Burger King North America, told USA Today. "This allows us to give even more value."

While Burger King is increasing the size of the Big King, it is holding the line on the $3.69 price. The sandwich is also part of a two for $5 special. The USA Today piece cited research by Burger King which showed that customer satisfaction has increased along with the larger burger.

The latest move by Burger King is in line with the chain's me-too strategy in recent years whereby it attempts to convince consumers that its versions of items made popular at competing restaurants are of higher quality and/or greater value. Steve Wiborg, the former chairman of the company's North American operations, told The Associated Press in 2012, "Consumers wanted more choices. Not just healthy choices, but choices they could get at the competition."

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:MCD] [ NYSE:BKC] [ ]

Discussion Questions:

Do you see Burger King being able to make incremental share gains by winning the me-too competition with McDonald's and others? Is authenticity more important that one-upmanship when it comes to product branding?

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:

Do you agree or disagree that fast food restaurant customers want to be able to order essentially the same item made popular in another chain?

Comments:

No matter how hard Burger King tries, it won't dethrone McDonald's. It's not a matter of authenticity or one-upmanship. It's the ability to run the restaurants, attract customers (marketing), innovation and locations. In every one of these areas, McDonald's wins.

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

If I were running McDonald's, I wouldn't lose sleep over BK's "me too" strategy. Burger King's comp sales didn't gain much traction, at least in the 3rd quarter, and they have been mostly "followers" for years.

McDonald's has its own issues to work through, which its CEO discussed recently: As the menu grows in variety and complexity, the ability to execute consistently is declining. (As an occasional McD's customer, I can vouch for the longer wait times for lower-quality food -- a bad combination.) Getting its own house in order is a bigger challenge than the latest weak stab at brand differentiation from the King.

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

Me-too is not a strategy, it is confirming to the consumer that you are playing catch-up. It is like the song "I Can Do Better Than You" from many years ago.

The real issue is defining your market. McDonald's and Burger King have a different customer base. Burger King needs to sell to the next group closest to their center that are McDonald's customers. This means bringing out new items and compelling promotions with advertising that is not dull.

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W. Frank Dell II, CMC, President, Dellmart & Company

Meaningful and lasting brand differentiation isn't built on a me-too strategy. Frankly, I don't believe consumers are longing for the same menu choices across competing brands. More than anything, imitating, copying and emulating the competition shows lack of creativity and innovation...and consumers see it for what it is.

Brands focused on quality and consistent execution, while occasionally offering truly new menu options will win long-term share of wallet. Wendy's and Taco Bell are good fast food examples of just such innovation.

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Jeff Hall, President, Second To None

Burger King's monster "me too" hamburger will likely add more pounds to its existing customers girth than capture the hearts and bellies of Big Mac lovers. If Burger King wants to grow its customer base, it needs a more original product than Big King...and better marketing.

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Gene Hoffman, President/CEO, Corporate Strategies International

Burger King is more than a decade behind trends when it comes to size. The healthy right size matters, even to the QSR heavy user.

A "'Me Too' Differentiation Strategy" is an oxymoron...really it's no strategy at all and "product branding" should not even be whispered in the same sentence since "me too" products pay homage to the product and brand it mimics.

"Me Too" is often the result of a tactical need to protect the flanks, a portfolio necessity.

Burger King's problems are more complicated than product offerings. They are structural and operational. A franchise business controlled by franchisees will lack consistency -- an item amplified when it involves food and flavors.

Burger King needs to ensure a Whopper will taste like a Whopper in every single restaurant before it starts making pseudo-Big Macs.

When you can't consistently deliver on your star products, the consumer will not believe you can deliver on the competitor's products.

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Carlos Arámbula, Managing Partner, MarcasUSA LLC

"At Burger King, we know that size matters." It certainly does...to them, at least, as their obsession with their number X ranking - I believe it's actually three or four rather than two - seems to guide their strategy. Suffice it to say that if mimicry was all that was needed to succeed, they would have been number one years ago.

'notcom'

There is a place for me-too product and concept marketing. It is not original. It is not glamorous. Is it profitable? Possibly. But the problems of Burger King are not McDonald's products. Better defining of their own product is important. The Whopper has not been compelling for a long time now. Will they sell a few to Big Mac customers - well yeah, because the Big Mac isn't so big a deal either. Geezch, would somebody just make me want to come to their restaurant?

Sid Raisch, President, Advantage Development System

I think "we are better" goes a lot further than "we are bigger." Being fire-grilled and arguably more "authentic" than McDonald's should be used as a marketing vehicle. Customers crave quality and like brands that stand for something.

Fabien Tiburce, CEO, Compliantia, Retail Audit & Task Management Software

Rather than "me-tooing" McDonald's, Burger King could take some lessons from the myriad of burger restaurants seemingly opening every day; Five Guys, Smash Burger, etc.

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Christopher P. Ramey, President, Affluent Insights

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