When Burger King opted to go with "The King"—a sort of adult version of Ronald McDonald that some have described as "creepy"—it took a huge risk. But it was a calculated risk: BK executives decided they would focus their marketing energies on "super fans" (18- to 34-year-olds) instead of older adults, parents, or children. The ads would be hip. There were no promotions for Happy Meals or fruit snacks or oatmeal. Double cheeseburgers would go for $1, much to the dismay of some franchisees. Has it worked?
Morgan Stanley analyst John Glass tells the Wall Street Journal, "Maybe catering to the super fan was the correct strategy to kick-start the business, but maybe they relied on that for too long." Burger King suffered two straight quarters of decline but received a boost of 13 percent in this last quarter. On the one hand, people are becoming more and more health conscious. On the other, recessions can increase sales among the cheaper chains as customers downscale their dining habits (Alain Ducasse's high-end eatery at the St. Regis in Washington, D.C., for instance, has stopped serving lunch—always a bad sign). McDonald's has performed notably well in the down economy and perhaps its diversified menu is the reason. In any event, it remains to be seen if The King can remain on his throne.
One indicator that might leave one a bit uneasy is this tidbit from the Journal (subscriber only): "Burger King tried to distinguish itself from rivals by addressing young men, in particular, like 'the cool uncle who tells you how it is,' says John Schaufelberger, Burger King's senior vice president of global product marketing and innovation."
How what is? (This may be the cool uncle who lets you drink whatever you want, considering Burger King has now entered the bar business.)