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Target Audience: Everyone

Liam Loan-Lack
Liam Loan-Lack (former) Account Director

A very experienced media planner once told me, “McDonald’s target everyone who has a mouth.” Today, as I read Trout & Rivkin’s seminal 2000 book, Differentiate or Die, that bon mot seems suddenly very relevant. 

In the book, the authors argue that the world’s most successful brands own and defend a single, differentiating competitive position by focusing on one audience, one product, and core attributes. This, they posit, is the only way to maintain a brand in the age of “killer competition.”

It makes perfect sense. However, it does seem to jar slightly with the quote, especially since that in media agencies, we spend so much time on targeting, or crafting a perfect audience build on TGI, using client segmentations etc. There is a distinct anti-climax when the target which pops out the end of all this work is a bland “all adults.” Of course, the quoted planner was in fact referring to the huge  McDonald’s budget, more than £72M in 2013. So yes, I suspect they can reach everyone in the country with a high frequency. However, I think that misses the point.

McDonald’s is an “everyman” brand: there are segments that will over-index on consumption. But broadly, we all eat there, or have done so. Therefore, an “everyone” target audience could make sense. That got me thinking however, what about a competitor like Burger King (which Trout et al reference numerous times)?

Well, it seems that currently Burger King are diluting their differentiating proposition of (according to TGI) big, quality eats as — espoused by the Angus range — with the launch of a King Deal Menu. Such a move is a clear attempt to steal McDonald’s share in the cheaper, younger end of fast food as enshrined by the Saver Menu. I say enshrined as McDonald’s has marketed this proposition heavily: they are certainly the market leader when it comes to a £1.20/£1/99p fast-food transaction.

This is illustrative of “the basic problem: the more [products] you add, the more you risk undermining your basic differentiating idea.” By Burger King mimicking the market leader, this may alienate the core audience that associates their brand with larger portions, higher ticket products and superior quality.

Of course, if Burger King invests significantly behind this Saver proposition they could one day knock McDonald’s off the top spot. However, I would suggest it would instead be beneficial (and involve less marketing spend) to re-visit the essence of the Burger King brand. For example, the Have it Your Way proposition was certainly unique in the clutter of the fast-casual dining space and it is easier for consumers to differentiate the brand using this personalisation hook, instead of as a ‘McDonald’s lite'.

As far as I’m concerned, I’ll still pop into McDonald’s for my 99p Cheeseburger.