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Why Is the King of Burgers Perceived as Distant and Aggressive?

Photo Courtesy: The Prince Family on YouTube

"Saatchi & Saatchi used psychological probes to conclude that Ronald McDonald created a more nurturing mood than did the Burger King (who was perceived as more aggressive and distant)."

I was fascinated by this particular study that described how people perceived McDonald’s and Burger King. My mind ran through the various facets of branding and consistency in product quality.

You see, I have always preferred Burger King over McDonald's. I love their burgers, the quality of their fries and somehow, their overall ambience feels just the way it should be. It did not feel aggressive and distant to me at all.

Photo courtesy:

On the other hand, I am not a fan of clowns and Ronald McDonald didn't seem very comforting to me, neither did the shades of yellows and reds. But I would give them one huge plus, they are always around. No matter which country, which state, or which district I travelled to, there was always a McDonald’s and it has always been a saviour. In short, McDonald's has your back.

Anyways, a few months back, I had held a poll on LinkedIn where I asked my connections which brand they preferred and why?

Surprisingly, most of them voted for McDonald's. However, my comments section saw more Burger King fans who were ready to testify to their great taste and consistent quality. Then what made the clear majority of 65% vote for McDonald's without offering any specific reason as to why? Was it a subconscious choice?

Here are some of the BK testimonials I received on the post:

In terms of Brand Value McDonald smokes Burger King off the park ... the data compiled by BrandZ Global Top 100 Most Valuable Brands in 2019 is compelling. - CityVP Manjit
Neither right now, because junk food. If I had to pick one, Burger King. Because they replaced my ice cream for free when it slipped out of my hand and fell down.- Karthick Richard

Burger King is value delivered. McDonalds is more hype. - Shibaji Dasgupta

Burger King has much better quality than McDonald's, even though portion sizes are smaller. - Satabdi Mukherjee

I guess Burger King has more meat and better taste. - Vivek Pradhan

McD for "Happy Meal" and the kids kit they give... - Prashanth Appuswamy

And an interesting perspective:

Neither. They sell one thing deliver another. - Kevin Baker

So, there I was, back to square one. Why on earth then is BK considered distant (and aggressive they say)? It sells good burgers and fries. It has a popular presence. It was founded just a year earlier than McDonald’s.

What happened?

McDonald’s branding and marketing went for a different angle altogether which was more focused on the demographics and their particular target audience. Kids.

Kids are naturally attracted to vibrant colors like red and yellow. The colors pop and they easily attract their attention, which is task in itself, given the attention span of the young ones.

Next, they added a personality to the brand with a mascot, Ronald McDonald, the one clown that’s actually pleasant and not creepy at all (apart from the much-loved Bozo), and Ron successfully tugged at their tiny, little heart strings. Ron smiled, always, and you would love to take a picture with him.

Photo Courtesy:

The Surprise Happy Meals took happiness to the next level. With miniatures and toys hidden inside the kid-sized meals, they had their TG captivated and driven to collect them all, i.e., all the toys of their limited edition Happy Meals. If you had Mr. and Mrs. Potato, you would then want Woody and Jessie, too!

So when parents would want to treat their kids for a job well done, good grades, or for a birthday party, guess where the kids would want to go?

McDonald’s ...

A generation grew up loving and feeling at home at Mc Donald’s. So guess what, when this generation had to take their kids out for a fun meal, where would they head to?

McDonald’s ...

And this went on and on, and McDonald’s repeated this successfully in every country they launched their brand.

They also did an incredible job adjusting their menus based on the country where they were situated. Even in a country like India, where more than 70% of the population is non-vegetarian, and yet the country is largely viewed as vegetarian, McDonald’s came up with an impressive spread of vegetarian options like plain potato patty, the usual mixed vegetable patty, paneer (cottage cheese) options, and also options that Indians are more inclined to like tikkis, kebabs, and puffs.

All in all, McDonald’s always strove to be a part of people’s childhood, their memories, and embrace their culture to make them feel at home, included, and in a certain way nurtured.

But people aren’t often aware of how these things impact them subconsciously. How these memories make home in the limbic system in their brains and subconsciously make them attracted to a certain brand over another.

Therefore, I guess it makes sense why people would prefer McDonald’s over Burger King. As kids, they found the McDonald’s experience more fulfilling and fun. In short, nurturing their rumbling tummies while also giving them happy surprises and nurturing their curious little minds.

As opposed to it, the experience in comparison wouldn’t have been as endearing at Burger King, no matter how awesome their product, advertising, and marketing is. But why distant and aggressive?

I do have a theory on this. But would like to hear your thoughts on it.

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