Fast Food Marketing

    Burger King Futures.


    The Burger King Whopper is a great product. Many people, myself included, feel it is far superior to McDonald’s Big Mac.  The problem with BK has always been product consistency. One day a Whopper can be sublime – the perfect fast food burger.  Fresh, crunchy, a perfect combination of backyard BBQ, veg. and condiments (the tomatoes are always an issue in the winter), the next day it can be cold, greasy and sporting an almost fruit cocktail-like mush of ingredients.    

    As a student of Burger King, I thought their investment in new broiler technology a year or so ago was going to change the fast food world. It did not. McDonald’s is still kicking their butt in consistency. Broiling is BK’s point of difference, but it won’t hold up to poor in-store execution.

    Today a Brazilian consortium of investors by the name of 3G is likely to make a move on Burger King.  In my view they are buying a business and a brand with so much upside it’s scary. The new owners need to establish almost NASA-like precision, though, with regard to product quality, especially in franchise stores. Forget the advertising for the moment. Forget the children’s playrooms and store color palette.  Get the core product right, make it consistent and the category will turn in your favor. Especially as you roll out internationally. Peace!

    The Bloated Middle of Marketing.


    Taco Bell recently sold its 200 millionth Doritos Loco Taco.  They started selling these babies in March.  That’s thinking outside the bun.  From a marketing standpoint.  Not sure whose idea this new product was, but it was marketing genius. For those who think marketing is all about promotion (We need a contest on the website!) or advertising (Let’s hire Barton Graf 9000), this new product launch shows that business building starts with product.

    I joked in a Tweet yesterday (@spoppe) that the new product probably resulted from something as simple as someone spilling a bag of Dorito’s in the Yum Brands Test kitchen; the reality is, the idea to merge a Taco Bell taco and a Dorito’s shell was not even that difficult. It was product innovation based on an idea. A simple idea. (I’d be interested to monitor how sales of bags of Dorito’s go over the next few quarters, but that’s a question for a different post.)

    200 million anything is a marketing woosh. I love advertising, but all those Dorito’s ads on the Super Bowl the last 10 years and all the think outside the bun and Chihuahua ads in recent memory are orchestrated noise compared to one good product idea.

    Any good brand planner knows marketing starts with the product. And it ends with the consumer.  But as an industry we spend too much time in the middle – playing with tactics and ads and “likes” and dashboards.  Let’s get our focus out of the middle and back on the product. Peace! 


    Burger King’s Impossible Whopper.


    Thanks to high cholesterol I’m a fan of plant based-meats. There’s just so much chicken a man can eat before he grows man boobs. The Impossible Whopper at Burger King is a creature comfort that’s popped up on the landscape for which I am extremely happy. At a certain age you are dealt health cards where you can eat and drink less of the things you love. It sucks. Meat, for me, is one such. (Scrapple please.)

    I’ve eaten hundreds of cheese whoppers in my lifetime but stopped cold turkey about 10 years ago. Thanks to Impossible and Burger King, I’m back. I’m so back.

    (Picture not linked to video.)

    Here’s the thing though. One of the coolest things about Burger King is the brand value “flame broiled.” What’s The Idea? readers know how I feel about the aroma of flame broiled burgers wafting along America’s streets and what a hunger aphrodisiac it is. Flame broiled is a killer differentiator for BK. But my gut tells me Impossible burgers — though they may have conquered the red blood thing with the heme additive – is manufacturing the grease thing a la George Lucas. I’m not sure coconut oil gets them there. The Impossible Burger TV spots do great job of presenting the whopper in a luscious light. But is the “glisteny” juice sprayed on? If so, they should stop. It’s disingenuous. Food stylists live and die by the spray bottle. But the Whopper, Impossible and flame broiling deserve better.

    Glisten to me. I know of what I speak.



    When Yum Ain’t Yum.


    Yum brands announced lower earnings yesterday attributed to continued poor sales at Pizza Hut. Yum’s two other main fast food chains KFC and Taco Bell continue to perform well.

    Here’s the thing. Yum Brands has cornered the market in some of the least healthy food offerings in the U.S. Smart companies in the business of serving less-than-healthy products (read Coke and Pepsi) know to hedge their bets with better for you offerings. Yum is a hold out. Sure they can put a salad on the menu and maybe a grilled offering, but it doesn’t change the scourge that is their high calorie, high cholesterol menus.

    So where the innovation at? More pizzas with peperoni stuffed in the crust?

    Were I in charge of Yum I’d innovate and introduce a completely new fast food chain. One intent on feeding the preyed upon chronic fast food eaters with healthier foods. I’m not talking Sweetgreen exactly, but in that direction.

    Find ways to meet the cravings of the salt-happy, crunchy fried-food leaning diners. A la the air fryer people. And do so at an attractive price point. Look beyond the dashboard and spend some R&D money. Then strap on a pair of huevos and go for it.

    There is pent-up demand for convenient, tasty, fast food that doesn’t cause obesity. If anyone knows the competition it’s Yum. It’s time to do the right thing. Which is also the smart economic thing.