Arby’s Can Show McDonald’s A Thing Or Two About Marketing

Like McDonald’s, Arby’s has also failed to create a successful marketing strategies in attempt to increase their customer base. Whether it was using different tag lines, outsourcing to different ad agencies, or launching new products, none of their strategies have worked. McDonald’s and Arby’s were never able to communicate their main differentiator due to a lack of transparency. Their lack of transparency came off as inauthentic. In recent years, however, Arby’s found their stride during their “We Have The Meats” campaign.

Arby’s CMO, Robert Lynch, endured four grueling years of, “losing $150,000 in sales from every restaurant.” It all changed when Arby’s decided to go back to basics and launch their “We Have the Meats” campaign. It was a simple strategy that finally spoke to their customers. “We Have The Meats” campaign centered on the meat they use of their restaurants by showing, literally, pieces of meat. Instead of pushing out content, Arby’s listened and found what their customers were looking for: honesty.

Lynch focused on “jumping in where they thought they should jump in.” Since then, they have accomplished big things by knowing their place. During the 2014 Grammys for example, Arby’s sent out a tweet to rapper Pharrel Williams asking if they could have their hat back. Supposedly his hat was very similar to the Arby’s logo. The tweet alone resulted in 78,000 tweets, and more than 6,000 new followers.

On a separate occasion, Arby’s took on Jon Stewart, from the Daily Show, after years of being the butt of his jokes. Instead of fighting back, they embraced his torment. “We had a decision to make. We were either going to call Mr. Stewart and say ‘Please refrain from using our brand that way,’ or something else. We decided to send his whole crew lunch,” Lynch said. Although that didn’t stop Stewart from tearing apart their brand, Arby’s decided to create a video for him when he announced his retirement. The video consisted of clips of him ripping apart Arby’s and it worked. Arby’s new strategy centered on not taking them too seriously and it paid off. In two years, Arby’s increased their 35 and under customer base by 43%.

Lynch attributes Arby’s success to “taking a stark stance and really sell what we want to sell and say what they want to say and break away from the happy-people-running-along-with-sandwiches-in-their-hands kind of advertising.” This kind of strategy is something that McDonald’s should take note of.

McDonald’s is as inconsistent as brands come. The brand even tried to be the fast food chain that could make any kind of food. The Hula Burger, McLobster, McGratin, McPizza, and McAfrika were just a few of their failed product launches, all of which were supposedly terrible. What better way to supplement failed product launches than with a #McDstories social media campaign? McDonald’s asked their customers to share their experiences at McDonald’s using the #McDstories hash tag. In 2 hours they had to shut it down. Fast food is fast food for a reason. Customers are not coming to McDonald’s to have a sit down dinner, they are coming simply for the food and if the food is crap, that is what McDonald’s should be focusing on.

In 2014, McDonald’s launched “Our Food, Your Questions” campaign to focus on transparency. The idea meant well, but campaign’s content lacked substance (no pun intended). For example, when customers asked about hormones in their beef, McDonald’s answered, “Most of the cattle we get our beef from are treated with added hormones, a common practice in the U.S. that ranchers use to promote growth.” Their general responses lacked substance. What about contents like azodicarbonamide, AKA “the yoga mat ingredient,” that is used in their buns and sandwiches.

In recent months, McDonald’s did launch their “All-Day Breakfast” campaign. This campaign has been their most successful in years, resulting in an uptick in stock prices. Lets just hope they continue to show more transparency and consistency and stay away from any more McAfrika-like products.

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