Gästinlägg av Johan Östlund
Under den tid jag var i Asien (Hong Kong, Japan och Kina) återkom en och samma problemställning: att stärka den lokala relevansen for globala, ledande varumärken. Mina huvudsakliga uppdragsgivare under dessa år var McDonald’s och Coca-Cola – två mycket stora aktörer med lite olika utmaningar. Dock med det gemensamt att de strategiska antaganden som baserats på västerländska, mogna marknader inte alltid var giltiga på de asiatiska marknaderna.
Ur ett planningperspektiv var så klart dissonansen mellan den västerländska strategin och asiatiska verkligheten både utmanande och stimulerande. Inte minst för att den gjorde det ännu viktigare att ställa rätt frågor för att lösa affärsproblemet. Eller som filosofen Jown Dewey så elegant uttryckte det:
A problem well-stated is a problem half-solved.
Ett konkret exempel är det första uppdraget jag fick när jag år 2009 landade i Hong Kong, nämligen att tackla det lokala problemet med Big Mac – världens mest sålda hamburgare, alla kategorier. Här fanns en global ikon som på den lokala Hong Kong-marknaden var i stort sett betydelselös. Big Macs bidrag till försäljningen och lönsamheten var minst sagt blygsam. Det var naturligtvis inte acceptabelt.
Hur vi löste problemet hade jag förmånen att få författa en fallstudie om till boken Strategic Brand Management: European Edition, av Kevin Lane Keller, Tony Aperia och Mats Georgsson (2011).
Och till min (och Miccos) stora glädje kan vi nu erbjuda läsarna av The Brand-Man möjligheten att ta del av fallstudien från boken. Ambitionen med caset var att förenkla och göra historien intressant, levande och lättförståelig. Texten nedan är dessutom ytterligare något omarbetad från bokversionen och du kan även ladda ner och läsa den kreativa briefen (under avsnittet ”Solution”).
In 2009 McDonald’s served over 60 million customers daily. Few brands on a global scale have such massive influence in the everyday lives of people throughout the world. A defining part of McDonald’s is their global product brands – Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, French Fries, Egg McMuffin and Happy Meal – which are recognised, familiar and appreciated by customers in every age group around the globe. To customers, these products are the core of the brand. Not surprisingly, their relative sales contribution to total sales is consistently very high. This notion was the main reason behind McDonald’s global strategic direction back in 2008 to focus energy and efforts to these brands and leverage their equity to achieve the company’s growth targets.
Among these brands is the world’s most famous and illustrious hamburger, the unrivaled leader of the pack, the number one of all hamburgers globally – the Big Mac. Since its introduction to the world around 40 years ago, with its unique seven layers and special sauce, it has been the benchmark for every hamburger ever since. Indeed, The Economist even created the Big Mac index as a founding base for their theory of purchasing-power parity (i.e. the notion that a dollar should buy the same amount in all countries). This is the true vindication of Big Mac’s global stature.
This stature is both captured and mirrored in the global brand promise of Big Mac: “The One- and-Only Taste Sensation”. Even though it is not explicit why Big Mac should be the one and only it makes intuitive sense for customers. They get it. After all, it is the famous Big Mac making this promise. This iconic status was underpinning every communication and promotion strategy in every market around the world when McDonald’s started implementing the strategic direction that was set out in 2008. For example, the famous “Big Mac Chant” was used when Big Mac was re-launched in the US. And the proposition was simple: “You know you so want one”.
The established brand-customer relationship was already there from the start and no functional claims were needed. Indeed, the same type of strategies was used across Europe in markets like Germany, United Kingdom and Sweden.
However, even for the world’s most famous burger, the situation can change and get complicated. And this was what Big Mac faced when its re-launch was due in the single most penetrated McDonald’s market in the world – Hong Kong.
The relationship between McDonald’s and the people of Hong Kong had been solid for years. With the brand being tightly embed into the fast-paced and busy everyday life of Hong Kong its market share in the QSR-category (Quick Service Restaurants) is stable around 50 %. Unsurprisingly, the market has consistently been viewed as one of the golden performers globally.
However, the consumption patterns are very different from the US and the big European markets. The specific global assumptions behind Big Mac did not hold true and, despite customers’ high awareness of the Big Mac, were not translated into strong favorable perceptions. Indeed, the sales contribution from Big Mac was considerably lower than what could be expected. In order for the product to perform according to its global stature more people had to choose it more often. Thus both consideration and preference had to increase.
When McDonald’s and its advertising agency DDB conducted the analysis, based on both quantitative and qualitative research methods, they identified the problem behind the problem. People did not have anything actively against Big Mac. In fact, it was not really present in their minds at all. Moreover the lack of marketing activity (the Hong Kong market had successfully chosen to prioritise other products previously) for Big Mac had made it rather uninteresting. Despite knowing about it customers felt indifferent towards it. Far from being the famous icon, Big Mac was merely perceived as a boring beef in Hong Kong. In addition, specifically being a boring beef is not an envious position since beef – although growing steadily, is still the smallest protein category on the market. The consumption patterns suggested that fish, pork and chicken were all preferred to beef. Yes, people were definitely eating beef. There were simply more restrictive because too much beef consumption was perceived to make you feel too “heaty”, which is a state-of-being that is hard to truly understand for a non-local. However, too much consumption of beef is not good for your psychical and mental balance. From a behaviour change perspective this was both a challenge and an opportunity. After all, a feeling of indifference can be changed. At the same time the attention could only be focused on the group of people that currently were positively evaluating the beef category as a whole. Even a stronger Big Mac was not going to drive the category as a whole in the short term. Consequently, the hypothesis was that it would be possible to inject energy in Big Mac, by giving people who currently rated beef positively, reasons-to-care and reasons-to-consider the product again.
The question was how these reasons were going to be created. The major issue was to make the global brand promise – “The One-and-Only Taste Sensation” meaningful, motivating and differentiating within a local Hong Kong context. Simply put; what is the promise actually implying? This needed to be identified. And it had to be tangible and believable.
To make the promise meaningful and motivating in Hong Kong meant that in-depth consumer insights had to be extracted. Careful observations of the behaviour displayed during eating occasions showed that people often order multiple dishes together and share, or just cherry pick from each other. Either way, the attitude symbolises a desire for more. It is a desire for more taste in every meal. Essentially, people in Hong Kong are greedy for taste. Hence, getting more taste in every meal would be a highly motivating proposition.
Obviously this proposition is something that many different products and brands would claim to offer. However, when McDonald’s and DDB interpreted what “The-One-and-Only Taste Sensation” actually meant from a tangible standpoint it became obvious that the fit between Big Mac and the people of Hong Kong was perfect.
Big Mac has a unique build – it has seven layers; and its combination of ingredients is complex compared with other burgers. Taste in hamburgers is usually one-dimensional (one or two things make all the difference). Big Mac is the opposite. Its taste is actually multidimensional. These attributes are the essence for its taste profile. Importantly, what everything eventually boiled down to was enabling the global brand promise to be expressed into a tangible proposition that was highly motivating for Hong Kong: Big Mac gives you more taste in every bite. And more importantly it gives you more taste in every bite than anyone else (click here if you wish to download the creative brief).
Clearly the local insights and the subsequent localised proposition indicated that Big Mac would have a potential influence on the Hong Kong market. Promising “more taste in every bite” seemed to be a good enough reason for people to at least give it a chance.
Interestingly the local proposition illustrated that the market situation in Hong Kong needed a different strategic approach compared with the other main global markets. When the conventional global approach was to focus on the “one-and-only” aspect to leverage the brand equity, the Hong Kong market decided to focus on the “taste sensation” aspect because it needed to build equity for Big Mac, not leverage it. To achieve this, the foremost task was to increase consideration and trial of Big Mac. The establishment of the basic taste credentials became critical. The communication direction therefore was geared towards an explicit taste approach.
The main objectives of the communication planning were to generate interesting reasons for people to connect with Big Mac, i.e. nudging and incentivising them.
Nudging people to consider Big Mac was driven by generating awareness of the local brand promise: More taste in every bite. TV has always been the consistently strongest media channel in terms of RROI (Revenue return on investments) for McDonald’s because of the customer purchase decision process in the QSR-category – salience is of paramount important. Hence, the role for TV was to generate awareness and provide reasons for people to think and feel about Big Mac. Media with close proximity to the restaurant and transforming actual restaurants into branded theme stores was used as mediums to visually making the brand promise coming alive. In addition, the social media arena was utilised to allow people to interact with the promise even outside the physical restaurant experience.
Incentivising people to try Big Mac was done with discount prices and bundled menu offers. These offers were all restricted by a time limit – across different day-parts – to stimulate the immediacy bias (Note 5) of people. The discount prices were obviously a key factor since consideration and trial were the main behaviour objectives. If the customers liked Big Mac then frequency of repeat purchase would follow at a standard price.
The creative idea that was developed by DDB followed the explicit taste approach which had been strategically outlined. The rationale behind the idea was that “The seven layers of ingredients gives you a taste journey with more taste in every bite”. It was this underlying rationale that was consistently communicated and displayed, in various ways, throughout the campaign.
And the people responded. The re-launch generated a tremendous momentum. The sales of Big Mac skyrocketed with over 150% and the ripple effect clearly came into place. When people are eating something around you, then you are more likely to eat that as well. Furthermore, the event illustrates the importance of being interesting to be present in the minds of customers. In a world of oversupply it is not enough to be relevant and different – you have to be interesting. This was a big explanation behind the success for Big Mac in Hong Kong. The re-launch simply gave people reasons to feel and think about it in an interesting way. This, in itself, was a strong nudge. And often we only need a gentle nudge to change our behaviour in one direction. This is particularly true in low-involvement purchase contexts such as the QSR-category where McDonald’s operates.
More than anything the case shows that even one of the strongest individual product brands on a global scale sometimes have to change its game in order to connect with customers within a given local context.
This is what Big Mac did. And as a consequence, it is now firmly placed on the tables in Hong Kong.
Johan Östlund har under de senaste åren snubblat över kulturella trösklar i Hong Kong, Japan och Kina. Han förbryllas ständigt över hur förbaskat svårt det verkar vara att förstå oss människor. Och vårt beteende. Just nu kämpar han med det i rollen som Chief Planning Officer på Leo Burnett i Shanghai. Dessförinnan har han arbetat inom DDB-nätverket på olika platser runtom i världen, samt även på SEB Kort.