You are here

The Hamburglar’s back but just doesn’t cut the mustard

Jon Silk, director at Bite, reveals what B2B marketers can learn from McDonalds

I’m typing this from a desk in the Bite office in San Francisco, having just had a chat with my colleagues – sorry, co-workers – about the lack of chain restaurants in the city. I’ve been here a few days for meetings, but the total lack of McDonalds, KFCs and Burger Kings had passed me by. But, thinking about it, I haven’t seen one since I’ve been here. Odd.

What San Francisco is obsessed with, however, is Uber. The taxi app is everywhere. You can car pool with it, and I shared a trip into town one morning with a large and rather menacing chap called Kevin. You can get things delivered by it. You can go down to the airport, or up to wine country with it. You could even listen to Britney’s new single before anyone else in one of the special ‘Britney SUVs’.

The problem with chains
So, the problem with chains in San Francisco isn’t a problem with corporations taking over, as they have no problem with Uber. It isn’t about uniformity, as they love Starbucks and there is a branch on every street corner. And it isn’t about food quality, as I’ve just eaten some chicken teriyaki that would’ve been impounded in the EU as hazardous waste.

The only thing left, then, is brand image. The people of San Francisco are a joyous mix of hippies and hipsters (which I will call ‘hippysters’ from here on in) and won’t abide cheesy chain restaurants looking uncool on their tram-filled streets. That must really irk Maccy-D’s, who surely want more restaurants serving up meat patties in the second most densely populated city in the US.

Just recently, McDonald’s has embarked on a campaign to revitalise its brand by bringing back a key character from its marketing history – the Hamburglar. Except he isn’t the zany cartoon character with the big head this time – he’s a suburban Dad who steals in his spare time. Oh, and he’s a bit better looking nowadays. He even has a trendy beard, driving some people to give him the nickname ‘Mumford and Buns’. Please, go online and check out the promo videos…

Pretty weird, eh? Totally different and – from what I’ve read – not getting a good response from the general public. 

Lessons from McDonald’s
So why am I bothering to tell you about this? I think you can learn some valuable lessons from the bearded Hamburglar. They are:

Don’t try and force your way into a market that isn’t interested in you. Focus your energy on places where you’re pushing on an open door. Your budget will go further and your reputation will blossom, rather than you just getting distracted and burnt out.

Don’t re-invent something that didn’t need reinventing. Have a look at your stable of brand assets and spend money doing more with the popular ones, and less with the unpopular ones. Don’t mess with things that work, and don’t modernise for the sake of it.

Watch for competitors that could expand into your market. Always wonder if Uber could do what you’re doing. If they could (or do), change your business model not your marketing.

There is one more lesson the Hamburglar has for you – if all else fails, grow a beard and turn to crime.