Burger King’s marketing plan for the next 12 months includes heavier promotion for its $1 menu items, development of more “value focused” new products and the national introduction next February of its premium Extra Thick Burger. The first change comes next month when Nascar driver Tony Stewart becomes Burger King’s advertising spokesman.
Those and other revelations came this week when Burger King Chairman-CEO John Chidsey and other chain execs talked with analysts about its just-ended fiscal year and the year ahead. Chidsey said he expected fiscal 2010 will be “challenging” and predicted that ”you will see us reposition our marketing efforts from one of brand stature to one of brand strength.” Say again?
What that means is a return to a focus on key brand-equity strengths such as flame-broiled taste, product quality and “size at affordable prices,” Chidsey explained. In October, for example, BK advertising will promote its $1 sandwiches, likely with comparative messages similar to what it currently is using in the 40 markets promoting $1 Double Cheeseburgers. As previously reported, those ads mock the smaller size of McDonald’s smaller double cheeseburger. Where offered, BK’s $1 Double Cheeseburger is showing “very strong performance,” he said.
Other elements of the BK marketing plan covered by Chidsey include:
► Rollout of the chain’s new batch broiler to all U.S. stores by Jan. 1. The national introduction of the Extra Thick Burgers will follow in February. These include the Three Cheese Steakhouse XT burger that Burger King offers at its recently opened Whopper Bar concept. Chidsey said the batch broiler will allow creation of new products (both budget- and premium-priced) that will be “game changers” for QSRs.
► Rollout of a new point-of-sale system will take longer, perhaps not until 2014 for all U.S. stores to have made the upgrade.
► New-product development will shift focus to “the value-engineered price points so that we don’t wind up in any way vulnerable to what might be a persisting economic downturn,” Chidsey said. He added that the chain continues to be “very pleased” with the performance of barbecued ribs in test markets.
► Breakfast sales have been soft—in part because of higher unemployment, Chidsey argued—but late-night “still is a positive grower” and will get ad support.
► Asked about criticisms of BK’s marketing that have come from some franchisees, some parents organizations and the residents of Mexico, Chidsey replied, “There’s no question that we’ve had to redouble our efforts in our communication protocols to improve our connection to our stakeholders.” I’m not entirely sure, but I think that’s a corporate-speak mea culpa and a promise to behave.