McDonald’s Beloved Brand Isn’t Made In a Kitchen.

Successful brands are made in your mind.

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Just like Pepsi vs. Coke or Ford vs. GM, the battle between McDonald’s (NYSE: MCD) and Burger King represents one of the most closely-studied business rivalries in American history. For more than 60 years, McDonald’s has been the trailblazer that set the standard by which all other franchises operated, and although a revitalized Burger King has begun to narrow the gap, McDonald’s current brand value (see below) absolutely crushes Burger King’s (and Starbuck’s and Subway’s, etc.)

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McDonald’s and Burger King started in the franchise food business in 1955 and 1953, respectively. Each restaurant boasts iconic products. Burger King has the Whopper. McDonald’s counters with the Big Mac. In fact, these products are the two best-selling burgers of all time. So why has Burger King never been able to even come close to McDonald’s in terms of brand value? Here’s what our Charlotte branding agency thinks about this discrepancy.

Sell the Experience, Not the Product.

They both sell essentially the same products. They both have access to the same ad agencies and marketing research. So what’s the difference? In a nutshell, Burger King sells a product, but McDonald’s sells an experience. Even more profound, McDonald’s markets their brand experience to young children which creates an emotional bond that is difficult to break. Mickey D’s is loaded with brand images that are embedded in our brains from a very early age.

Brand Strategy Makes All the Difference.

The balance sheet difference between these two brands—both selling essentially the same short list of products to hungry consumers—is huge. Analysts see Burger King ringing up $1.06 billion in sales this year, a far cry from the $27.78B projected for McDonald’s.

How does McDonald’s approach to brand strategy apply to your business?

Among all your current and possible audiences, who is your single most important consumer? Who can be activated without requiring any change in their behavior? (Changing behavior is very expensive.) Knowing the answer to this seemingly simple question is very important if you want to use your limited marketing dollars effectively.

Here’s another essential question: if I was your chosen target, why would I care? What’s in it for me? And it’s not about what you sell. Despite all the world-class things that you do, all the great products and services  you bring to the world, the fact remains I do not buy what you sell. Instead, we all buy what is of value to us. What are the emotional reasons underlying our relationship with your brand? What’s your Happy Meal, and how are you marketing it to me?

No one can be good at everything. Most companies or organizations are only truly good at a very few things. Our Charlotte branding agency, for its part, is really good at sorting out these issues for you, and we are especially good at getting you to understand your true strengths, and what your target audience values, because it is precisely the intersection of these two things that are critical to devising and delivering an effective, viable, and profitable brand experience.

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