Report on Shemaroo

Knives out: Fast food chains revert to roasting in new ad campaigns

The momentary truce struck amid the pandemic seems to be over.

NEW DELHI: For the most part, it appears that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. Vaccination programmes have been rolled out on a war footing in most countries, active caseloads have gone down and the economy, too, is showing signs of revival. People have resumed most of their pre-Covid leisure activities, be it travelling or eating out. When it comes to the latter, the gloves are finally off for leading global fast food chains, who had struck a momentary truce while the F&B industry was getting slammed at the peak of the pandemic.

It is no secret that the big three of the quick service restaurant (QSR) segment – McDonald’s, KFC and Burger King – have been in a cut-throat competition for decades now, looking to one-up the other in any arena one can think of – product menu, customer service, ad campaigns etc. With the rise of social media, these brands never lost the chance to call out or troll one another through their Twitter or Instagram handles, so much so that these brand wars often went viral.

However, things took a positive turn last year in November when Burger King UK took an unusual step; it called on customers to order from arch-rivals McDonald’s, KFC and a string of other fast food chains. “We never thought we’d be asking you to do this, but restaurants employing thousands of staff really need your support at the moment. So if you want to help, keep treating yourself to tasty meals through home delivery, takeaway or drive thru. Getting a Whopper is always the best, but ordering a Big Mac is also not such a bad thing," said the Burger King statement posted on Twitter.

This unprecedented show of solidarity became the talk of town and won plaudits from netizens.

Before that, a sweet smooch between McDonald’s clown mascot Ronald and the Burger King, to show support for Finland’s LGBTQ+ community, had also won hearts. The out-of-home ad campaign released in September 2020 bore the tagline “Love Conquers All.”

But neither a kiss, nor a tweet could put an end to their mutual beef for long.

Indeed, it was Burger King that fired the first salvo through an ad campaign that claimed there's "no contest" between its Whopper and other burgers, throwing subtle shade at McDonald's. Soon, KFC piled on with a new ad film for its 'value burger' offering. Featuring actor Anil Kapoor at his comic best, the ad sees him taking a not-so-subtle dig at McDonald's McAloo Tikki burger. McDonald's, at the brunt of its competitors ribbing, has yet to respond; instead, it’s devoting its energies to drumming up sales through digital call to action campaigns like #MatchedByYou offer.

KFC, which witnessed only a six per cent downturn in customer visits in the US during the pandemic to the 15 per cent slump experienced by burger chains, is going after Burger King and McDonald's as exhibited by the online slugfest between the QSR outlets in Spain. Making use of the Godzilla vs King Kong meme, KFC Spain aimed a potshot at the burger barons by portraying itself as a humble Doge with a baseball bat ready to smash its archrivals.

Not one to take a diss lying down, Burger King replied with its own version by tweeting a morphed photo of the Doge held by a leash.

And while commentators predicted that the craze for the chicken sandwich sparked by Popeyes was on the wane, for Burger King, KFC, McDonald's and even Taco Bell, the battle is just getting started. A new line-up of crispy chicken sandwiches has either been launched or is in the works in the test kitchens of these fast food chains, as they look to get their cash registers ringing by bringing back the wildly popular snack. The ‘chicken wars’ are on once again, with Twitter once again being the site of an increasingly heated multi-brand clash.

These brands are not only competing over their menu items, but also over the wrapping they come in. Both Burger King and McDonald’s recently underwent a makeover with a packaging and logo refresh, but it would seem the King's taken the crown with its "groovy" new look. An AdAge survey found out that 54 per cent respondents preferred Burger King's bold and colourful packaging over Mickey D's rather conventional, minimalist design. Last year, the Golden Arches brand introduced 'EatQual' packaging for specially-abled customers in India.

According to a report by Edelweiss Securities, India’s food services market was estimated at Rs 4,236 billion, of which QSRs had a market size of Rs 348 billion. The QSR segment is expected to clock a compound annual growth rate of 23 per cent between now to 2025 as large food services chains such as McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s, penetrate deeper into India's heartland. Further, the rising popularity of online food ordering and delivery platforms have enabled QSRs to reach more consumers.

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