Taco Bell vs. McDonald’s: The Marketing War for Breakfast

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 9.54.18 AMMaybe you haven’t heard (if you’ve been avoiding any sort of media for the past few weeks): Taco Bell is now serving breakfast. Starting last Thursday, Taco Bell launched their new breakfast menu, the result of 7 years of preparation according to Taco Bell CMO Chris Brandt.

Taco Bell didn’t release the new breakfast menu quietly. There were marketing stunts galore leading up to the launch, including the “burner phone” campaign. And, Taco Bell decided to up the ante by challenging McDonald’s, who lays claim to 25% of the fast food breakfast market, to an all out “breakfast war.” That breakfast war has now gone viral.

In three TV spots created by Deutsch LA, Taco Bell used real people named Ronald McDonald to give glowing testimonials of the new breakfast items. Each spot ends with the sign off, “Delicious new breakfast everyone can love, even Ronald McDonald.” The main TV spot has gotten over 1.6 million views on YouTube to date.

This direct brand-on-brand confrontation seems to be the new norm in this age of social media. For example, during the Super Bowl this year, many brands spent the game interacting with each other on Twitter, trying to get consumers’ attention.

Of course, McDonald’s isn’t sitting back quietly. The day after the Ronald McDonald Taco Bell ads came out, McDonald’s released a photo on Facebook: an image of the McDonald’s Ronald McDonald crouching next to a chihuaha (the old Taco Bell mascot) with the caption: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” and a link to their online breakfast menu.

So, the gloves were off. The quick, simple, and dare we say adorable response by McDonald’s received over 7,000 likes and 1,450 shares, plus over 600 comments. McDonald’s is also being proactive, running a promotion for free coffee during breakfast hours through April 13. Facebook posts on March 30 promoting the free coffee have received more engagement than its response to Taco Bell did, with over 66,000 likes and over 6,000 shares.

What’s clear is that both brands are benefitting from the breakfast war. Taco Bell had a big spike in Twitter mentions on March 27, the day they launched the breakfast menu and the Ronald McDonald ads. McDonald’s saw a bump when it posted its comeback on March 28.

And, it’s not just the fast food companies getting in one the social media “brand wars.” Ford has gotten some buzz for its response to the Cadillac ad about the American work ethic. But, do these brand wars help brands in the long run, or actually hurt them?

“Brand fights are like train wrecks – you can’t look away, but the end result is rarely positive,” Drew Nessier, CEO of social agency Renegade, said. We’ll see if these brand wars actually result in increased sales, or just momentary social media engagement.

Latest Blog Post


More Blog Posts (FPO)

Incitrio provides stronger
Brand Intelligence for B2B

Free Strategy Consultation.
Meet with a specialist to talk through your specific challenges and discover if Incitrio is right for you.