It's not unusual for BK to emulate McDonald's menu -- the Big
King, in fact, was once a limited-time offer in the '90s, without
the middle bun it now has. But BK's recent products appear to be
more strikingly similar to McDonald's items than ever.
The Miami-based chain really started to ramp up its Golden
Arches-like offerings in early 2012, when it rolled out its biggest
menu overhaul, with items like salads and smoothies.
"It seems like [Burger King] is directly going more after
McDonald's," said Elizabeth Friend, senior food-service analyst at
Euromonitor. She credits it to BK's keeping up with the industry
and consumer desire for more healthful options. Since McDonald's
has been "driving the whole category strategy," rivals are playing
catch up. But, she cautioned, "they're not trying to start a
BK for years went after a narrow target of young males and has
more recently decided it needed products and marketing to appeal to
a much wider audience, including women and the health-conscious
demographics McDonald's was already courting.
Burger King's same-store sales in the U.S. and Canada were up
3.5% in 2012, vs. a 3.4% drop in 2011. McDonald's U.S. comparable
sales in 2012 were up 3.3% after 6% gain in 2011. In the third
quarter this year, Burger King posted a 0.9% global sales increase,
but a 0.3% drop in the U.S. and Canada. McDonald's posted a global
sales increase of 0.9% for the quarter, with a 0.7% increase in the
McDonald's declined to comment on Burger King, and Burger King
declined to comment.
The heightened rivalry comes as both chains rework their
marketing suite. McDonald's in September announced that its U.S.
CMO since 2008, Neil Golden, was leaving; a replacement has yet to
be named. In April, McDonald's tapped Steve Easterbrook as global
brand officer, a spot formerly held by Kevin Newell, who became
U.S. brand officer.
Burger King in June brought on North American CMO Eric
Hirschhorn. And in October, Burger King said Axel Schwan would
become global CMO, replacing Flavia Faugeres, who will step down at
Some analysts believe that rather than follow, BK should lead by
marketing its biggest asset: the quality perception of a
flame-broiled burger. BK "hasn't reached the potential it can or
should reach," said Kevin Keller, marketing professor at Tuck
School of Business at Dartmouth College.
Both chains will offer fewer new products. After Burger King's
massive menu rollout in 2012 -- 10 items at once -- executives have
committed to fewer with more focused marketing support. McDonald's
said at a recent investor meeting that it rolled out too many menu
introductions too quickly, negatively affecting operations.