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Marketing Viewpoint by Ruth Winett


Lessons Learned from Burger King's Re-branding

When US and Canadian sales plummeted after an unsuccessful foray into healthy foods, Burger King had to choose between fast food and "fast-casual" healthier foods. Following extensive soul-searching, the company again considers itself a fast-food company.

The chain re-engaged its fast food clientele by paring its menu, introducing chili-cheese hot dogs, and reintroducing chicken fries. Sales rose again, reports Julie Jargon in “Burger King's Identity Crisis Spurs Makeover,” Wall Street Journal, March 10, 2016, p. B1.

Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, your re-branding effort should include these components:

  • Management support. Encourage a thorough review of the old brand and the development of new options.
  • A corporate tolerance for failure. Some options will prove to be unpopular or impractical. A budget-experimenting requires funds.
  • A mechanism for soliciting customer input and testing new ideas and new products. Burger King tested various recipes for cheese dogs before selecting chili-cheese dogs.
  • Time. Finding changes that will succeed is a trial and error process.
  • Metrics. Otherwise how will you know if you have succeeded?

In addition, successful re-branding requires that you

  • Honestly assess which offerings to keep, which to replace, and which new offerings to adopt.
  • Listen to different types of customers. Grits are a tradition in the south, but unknown in the north. What succeeds in the US may not succeed in Asia.
  • Beware of emotional attachments to old products or services that customers no longer want.
  • Protect legacy products that are still popular--and profitable--such as Burger King's chicken fries.
  • Provide parallel options for regular customers that are unwilling to try new products.
  • Continue to provide great service during the transitional period.

In every industry, change is fraught with peril. Coke made the disastrous decision to dicker with its formula only to have to restore Classic Coke. When your business is considering new offerings or re-branding, be sure to provide management support, listen to your customers, and conduct trials of new options before introducing them to your customers. Finally, develop a method for measuring success.

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