Tag Archives: Restaurant

Stylish AND Cheap Sells; Good Advertising Helps

Just because we advocate appealing to people’s heightened dollar-value consciousness doesn’t mean we necessarily advocate abdicating style, fun and intellectual and emotional appeal.

What do these things have in common?

a. Burger King Whopper Jr.
b. Taco Bell bean burrito
c. McDonald’s Big N’ Tasty
d. Wendy’s Small Frosty

We’ll give you a hint: They’re all available for about a buck on the value menus of their respective QSRs (quick service restaurants).

In a recent post, we talked about how fast and cheap seem to be winning out, at least if three-year stock performance is any indication.

But as we’ve also discussed, being fast and cheap, even under the threat of rising prices and reduced productivity, isn’t enough. Consumers want it all, remember? And they’re always right. You have to be cool, stylish and lifestyle-relevant while satisfying the more mundane elements of the value equation.

So, once again, we sing the praises of the Golden Arches. “What makes them so great?” You ask. Check this out.

Hot (at least half the time) food, wrapped in paper and set on a tray is nothing special. That’s where advertising comes in.

Food, any kind of food, fast food included, has numerous close substitutes. And regardless of what we tell ourselves, there’s only so much we can do to the product itself. We can improve service, make the experience more exotic and, importantly, we can create an expecation or reinforce a decision with the use of properly placed, relevant and compelling advertising.

In a world with hundreds of different fast food options, McDonald’s makes people feel good about having just visited one of the chain’s thousands of locations by reinforcing their choice with messages like the Chicken Dance commercial.

It may not get you to run right out and by an Extra Value Meal. But it will reduce the cognitive dissonance that many people feel before, during and after eating at the restaurant. “I really want the burger and fries, but I know that later I’ll feel like I could have made a healthier choice. Still, it’s always so satisfying.”

It doesn’t hurt that this particular ad is tagged with a shot of a seemingly healthy wrap, Dasani bottled water and a fruit/yogurt parfait. And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that many of us won’t be ordering that particular combination of menu items.

But that doesn’t matter. McDonald’s has given us the options, shown us how much fun their brand adds to our lives and simply asked us to make them a part of our lives. It’s not a push-y strategy at all. They’ve even toned it down on the promotional offers, specials and movie tie-ins. It’s not all about product and price.

If McDonald’s and Wal-Mart can do it, smaller competitors who trail them better take notice.

The Doc is in…for lunch

Now, the cynical traditionalists will scoff, but we think it behooves (love that word) food marketers to find ways to appeal to people’s desire to connect to unique and relevant brands with local flavor.

It’s pretty clear to us when something is completely contrived, like when we walk into ESPN Zone and the hostess has no clue who Stuart Scott is. Boo-Yah? No, just Boo.

But when you walk into a place called Doc’s Steakhouse in Wichita, you know you are someplace special.

Photo courtesy of kansas.com

There is a “676 Miles to Wall Drug” sign on the wall. The signature dishes are the Garlic Salad and Hamburger Steak. News clippings heralding the discovery of “new galaxies” also adorn the walls, along with menus from the last half-century. Worn carpet and stale smoke complete the bygone experience. As soon as you are seated, ice water in stubby, eight-ounce tumblers is raced to your table.

I went with my friend Steve. Here are just a few of the things I heard from him:

“My dad used to take us here for special occasions.”

“My wife and I used to come here a lot when we were dating.”

“I remember when the guy taking your money at the cashier stand wouldn’t let you by without talking to you for awhile, even when the line was backed up 15-people long.”

Ought to be some way for chain restaurants and supermarkets to tap into the potential to be unique the way Doc’s has done.

It has to have integrity and can’t appear stilted. Just authentic, neighborhood and familiar. Giving people a littleĀ something extra to hold on to in uncertain times never hurts, either.