The Warc Blog

The Warc Blog

Gross-Out Food Wars
Robert Passikoff, President, Brand Keys, Inc
Robert Passikoff

It started with KFC’s bunless “Double-Down,” two pieces of fried chicken with a burger in the middle. Next came Friendly’s “Ultimate Grilled Cheese Burger Melt” – a hamburger between two grilled-cheese sandwiches. But in the interest in of staying competitive – while offering something other than gourmet hamburgers – and generating some much-needed buzz, Carl’s Jr.’s is introducing a foot-long burger, made from lining up three burgers on a hoagie bun and weighing in at 1,400+ calories.

Whether these offerings are appetizing to the consumers, a market opportunity does not a brand success make. The truth is that any quick-serve chain can come up with a truly gross offering. But getting attention and getting sales are two entirely different courses. Consumers may try something for the novelty (and for the occasional cholesterol jolt), but you need more than one-time buyers to make a success of newly fabricated grub.

What you need is to be able to do it believably. While gross as any recent offer, the foot-long, triple burger from Carl’s Jr.’s would seem at least within their prevue, and thus a more feasible offering coming from a burger joint. And as a brand, Carl’s Jr.’s could sure use some inspiration. According to our Customer Loyalty Engagement Index, they’re rated toward the bottom of the current national offerings—a category that increasingly sees “health” showing up in the decision process:

  1. McDonald's
  2. Subway
  3. Burger King
  4. Quiznos
  5. KFC
  6. Wendy's
  7. Carl’s Jr.’s
  8. Hardee's
  9. Jack in the Box
  10. Taco Bell

As the summer unfolds and the gross-out comestible wars continue, we are curious to see what other culinary chimeras get offered to the public. But as anyone with a test kitchen can create a gross-out pièce de résistance, here’s a research question that rings loudest: is the weird combination of disparate foods – and attendant and unfamiliar mouth-feel and unusual taste sensations – the reason that consumers feast on such fare? Our metrics tell a different story of what consumers in the category are looking for, which may not be as simple as shaping a bigger burger. Especially when the shape many of today’s consumers are most interested in is their children’s and their own.

Subjects: Consumers, Brands, Marketing

15 July 2010 15:21

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