Fast-food enterprises are doing rather well, thank you very much.
The pandemic gave them a captive audience.
Technology gave them a headstart in making it easy for customers to order and pick up. Or to come along to the drive-thru and even have a robot take their orders.
You’d think, though, that fast-food brands would use technology to create brand affection rather than something different.
Two tales from the past week may make you wonder.
McDonald’s decided to release its Szechuan Sauce. Yet again. Should you have been fortunate enough to miss this experience, it all started with the Rick and Morty TV show mentioning the sauce.
McDonald’s played along by sending the show’s creators a large bottle. In 2017, the company released the sauce in minute quantities. This, quite naturally, caused consternation, traffic jams and a lot of angry customers.
This time around, beginning March 31, the sauce may be released in slightly greater quantities. But McDonald’s is making it conditional. You have to download its app to qualify.
I don’t know about you, but I find companies that force me to download an app force me to offload it the minute I get what I want.
Forcing customers to do something is rarely a good thing. Imagine, too, if you download the app and the sauce is no longer available. This is all menacingly uncomfortable.
Please, then, contrast it with something Burger King did last week.
It suddenly struck the company that gas prices were going up. This would surely increase the costs for customers who choose to go to the drive-thru.
So, as B&T reports, Burger King’s French arm decided to drop the price of its Whopper to 1 euro and 99 cents — if the price of gas goes above the highly emotional 2 euros per liter mark.
“Driving may not cost you less, but eating will,” says the company’s announcement ad. So it’s dipping the price — a Whopper may usually cost around 5 euros — for drive-thru customers only.
Here, then, is the contrast.
Where McDonald’s focuses on self-interest and app downloads, Burger King centers its thoughts on its customers’ emotions.
McDonald’s may, indeed, succeed in its initial mission. But how many will still resent that they have to download the app?
Burger King’s customers, on the other hand, will surely feel far warmer. The brand has considered them and their current lives, rather than trying to gauge a commercial success from vulnerable customers — vulnerable to the hype surrounding a highly average sauce, that is.
Sometimes, being self-regarding isn’t the best way to go about business.
And I’m not specifically talking about any tech company when I say that.