The Fast Food Marketing Wars: Burger King vs. Domino’s Pizza

It was the perfect crime or so they thought. Burger King execs launched a major television ad campaign, which shows the King “stealing” the Sausage McMuffin breakfast sandwich recipe from its biggest competitor – McDonald’s.

BK’s hope is to “rob” McDonald’s of its highly successful breakfast business by offering customers the popular item for less. Its sandwich is essentially the same as the Sausage McMuffin, featuring sausage, egg and cheese on an English muffin. In its commercial, BK clearly states the message, “It’s not that original but it’s super affordable…” While we laud BK for taking such a bold move, its copycat crime and efforts to market its “new” product fall short in more ways than one.

See the commercial here:

When launching a successful marketing campaign, companies must focus on the product, brand, target audience, messaging and the overall goal. BK’s campaign shows that the company knows its target audience and its goal, but how much focus went into the product, the brand and the messaging? In the ad, BK states that its new breakfast sandwich is like McDonald’s. The campaign also strengthens McDonald’s brand by inferring that it is “king” of the breakfast sandwich. And, as for BK’s messaging, “there’s nothing really special about our product, except it’s cheaper,” does nothing to boost its brand. In fact, it cheapens it. With the exception of cost, the messaging fails to differentiate the product or build brand awareness. We all know that cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better.

On the other hand, let’s take a look at how Domino’s Pizza was able to leverage advertising to right its brand and highlight its points of difference. Domino’s offered an affordable alternative to some of its competitors. But, the pizza chain learned the hard way that less cost won’t sell pizzas. The taste of a Domino’s pizza couldn’t compare to its competitors. The company studied its competition then spent millions developing a new recipe, creating a new product, crafting its messaging and rolling out its campaign. Domino’s elicited their customer’s feedback and closed the feedback loop by reengineering their pizza. In the end, Domino’s developed a killer pizza priced right. Consumers applaud Domino’s for its honesty and transparency and are flocking back to their stores.

Companies copy product ideas from their competitors all the time. Just look at the number of brands making computers, smartphones, flat-screen TV’s, shape-up shoes, etc. Products are not replicated. Each company puts its own spin by offering a better picture, more features, user-friendly functions, etc. They are not simply copying an idea. They are making it better. Nowhere in the BK commercial does the company state the product is better.

When launching a new product, companies should study the competition, target the ideal customer, create a unique value proposition, define its strategy, test its marketing approach, and roll out the campaign. BK’s effort to “steal” customers away may not work unless their “new” product is different. If it is, then let it stand on its own, the consumer will be the ultimate judge.

Clearly Domino’s won this “fast food” marketing battle, but the war wages on…