Despite intense competition in the fast-food market, Burger King has created a strong brand position thanks to its clever growth strategies. It is well-known that the franchise’s burgers are good, but in the beginning, Burger King struggled to compete globally with market leader McDonald’s massive advertising budget. So how did Burger King carve out its place in the burger market?

The back story

Founders Keith Kramer and his wife’s uncle, Matthew Burns, built a stove called the Insta-Broiler and named their company Insta-Burger King in 1953. But a year later, they ran into financial problems. It was then that David Edgerton and James McLamore stepped in, bought the ailing company and renamed it Burger King.

The pair improved the original design and created a gas grill called the flame broiler – which eliminated all the problems of the Insta-Broiler. By 1959, the pair saw growth potential and in 1961, the signature Whopper burger took off and became a hit across the United States. By the late 1970s, Burger King grew to become America’s second-largest burger chain, known for its high-quality, great-tasting and affordable food.

Burger King’s big message

Focus group research reassured the company that the Whopper tasted better than its rival, McDonald’s. The reason was that the burger was substantial, very satisfying and offered consistently good, fresh vegetable ingredients – which it still does to this day. Using this to its advantage, the chain decided to focus its creative strategy on highlighting the fresh ingredients that went into the Whopper.

For instance, it erected a billboard that showed a whopping big tomato with the line, The big taste of a Whopper, or just lettuce leaves with the line, Lettuce have a Whopper. These billboards were on display for two years. In the third year, Burger King continued to play on this theme, but added visual icons to appeal to an international market, like a picture of a tomato next to the leaning tower of Pisa with the line, I’m leaning towards a Whopper. The results proved that the three-year campaign was a success with a cumulative 37.7% increase in sales.

Its growth strategies explained

Burger King uses cost leadership and broad differentiation strategies to remain competitive. A financial objective is to reduce operating costs so that its products can be offered at lower prices through economies of scale and error prevention. Secondly, Burger King creates unique characteristics that differentiate it from its  competitors. It supplies this differentiation through its advertising and brand representation. Its slogan, Be Your Way, lets customers know that the chain offers flexible options. In terms of its product offering, it has a fine way of grilling its burger patties and offering free drink refills.

Burger King also employs intensive growth strategies by opening new stores in overseas locations where there are no operations. Its cost leadership strategy is particularly important when it tries to break into emerging markets.

Burger King keeps it simple

Any restaurant needs to pay close attention to its menu because if it gets this wrong, it could end up losing revenue. A menu needs to be strategically engineered to ensure it is on-brand, easy to read and profitable. The psychological theory known as the “paradox of choice” explains that if you offer guests too many options, they are likely to feel overwhelmed. One of Burger King’s key drivers is its simple menu. When it does add items to its menu, they are sourced from ingredients already in use. With this strategy, it can attract new customers without alienating existing ones.

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