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The Amazing Breakfast Race – A Marketer’s Most Important Meal

April 1, 2010

On April 5, Subway will unveil their first-ever line of breakfast items as the battle for total fast food breakfast domination heats up again. Burger King, no stranger to the fast food breakfast competition, will soon offer BK Breakfast Muffin sandwich and BK Breakfast Bowls. The BK Breakfast Muffin sandwich proudly features a sausage patty, egg, and American cheese on an English muffin.

Recall in 2007, Starbucks launched their own spin on hot breakfast, giving us oatmeal as well as three different types of hot sandwiches that can be microwaved to perfection. These items have remained popular, giving Starbucks a competitive edge in the breakfast game.

Why breakfast?

How often do you actually think about breakfast? Do you keep 20 boxes of cereal on-hand so you can change it up every day? Do you mix ‘em together like a cereal “suicide”? Not likely. If you’re like most people, you sit at your desk all morning wondering, “What will I have for lunch?” and it changes fairly regularly. It’s not just that most people eat breakfast, it’s that people tend to eat the same breakfast every day. Once you’ve gotten used to that granola, it is hard to break the pattern. Retailers are banking on this; if they advertise you into submission a few times, they’ve got you.

Fast food retailers like BK identify breakfast as their “single biggest opportunity” and are hell-bent on getting a piece of that McDonald’s breakfast empire. To do that, they’re offering unique, marketable items like the above breakfast bowls, which give diners their typical breakfast favorites, but in easy-to-transport containers. Subway will offer “100% egg” in their omelet sandwiches. You’ll never get liquid or powder here.

Smaller retailers have an advantage

Fast food retailers that have marketed themselves to appeal to people who prefer to eat at hometown or healthy establishments have an advantage in the breakfast arena. It is not uncommon to hear people waxing poetic about their desires for a Chick-fil-a breakfast on a Sunday morning. Chick-fil-a has never been and never will be open on Sundays, due to its owner’s religious background. They’ve done an incredible job proving t consumers that their product is anything more than a fried chicken breast on a buttery, lard-y biscuit, and yet, you’d think it was the Second Coming of Breakfast by the number of people who eat it and don’t think it’s “that bad for you.” Chick-fil-a also offers a number of healthier items, should lard-y biscuits not interest you, though the chicken biscuit remains their top breakfast item.

How this war plays itself out

There is a piece of outdoor advertising real estate at the intersection of Beechnut and the Loop 610 in Houston. The billboard creative here is ever-changing, as it is an incredibly expensive space, and is seen by thousands of people every day. No doubt the price to advertise here will go up, now that we have a real way to measure the ROI of outdoor advertising.

This intersection is also home to McDonald’s. A block due west of this McDonald’s is a Chick-fil-a. McDonald’s – the market research titan that it is – heard the idle chatter of Chick-fil-a loyalists who were craving chicken sandwiches on Sunday’s and employed said outdoor ad space in the never-ending fight. The billboard featured a giant piece of fried chicken on a giant buttermilk biscuit, with the words (and I’m paraphrasing because I don’t remember exactly), “Perfect for breakfast, any day of the week.” Oh McDonald’s, you sneaky giant conglomerate. Golden Arches: 1, American people: 350 (lbs).

An organization could emerge as the Ali to McDonald’s Foreman, but until then, the rumble continues. If there is going to be a takedown, or at the very least a worthy contender, it will be a brand that relies heavily on marketing to make consumers forget that what they’re eating is fast food in the first place.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. John Whiteside permalink
    April 1, 2010 2:30 pm

    I do not eat breakfast everyday but I really love breakfast sandwiches, and that subway one looks good to me 🙂 So more choices for me is fine. I just wish they would serve it at all hours of the day…

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