McDonald’s is about to make the biggest brand strategy blunder of all time: fight two battles at once.

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As of 2017, it is hard to really define what McDonald’s stands for anymore. The one thing I can safely say, is they are no longer “Fast”. On a cold Canadian winter, I called home and asked my son if he wanted a coffee on my way home. He said “sure”. So I got in the McDonald’s drive through line, behind only about 4 other cars. And after 20 minutes, I finally had my coffee. I was in complete shock. Does anyone do fast anymore? You would think in this day of hyper need states, someone would do fast.

The only success they have had in the past 18 months has their all day breakfast, basically taking their normal breakfast foods and making it available 24/7. I guess for the next move they could make their fries available 24/7. And now they have added bacon to their Big Mac and talking about it on TV like it is an “Oh my god, why didn’t I think of that” type of innovation.

A few days later, I read that McDonald’s was going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp the insides of their McCafe’s around the world. OK, so you want to take on Starbucks. Sure you have a great coffee, but plastic seats, fake fireplaces, annoying toddlers screaming on the floor, and the teenagers lurking around certainly does not make up for the great coffee. That will sure be expensive to replicate the appeal of Starbucks. By the way, can anyone answer my question: how does Starbucks manage to keep toddlers out of their restaurants?

Then a week later, I read that McDonald’s was going to invest billions in 2017 to revamp their entire kitchens to be able to serve high quality and fresh meat in their hamburgers. Wow. I am big fan of Five Guys, In-N-Out burger, Shake Shack and Big Smoke burgers. But, they are never fast. They each say they won’t start cooking your burger until you order it. At Five Guys, you can see them even pull the burger out and placed on the grill.

McDonald’s is about to commit the worst mistake a brand can do. They are about to fight a war on two fronts.

In the history of warfare, this is the most common mistake of every great general who has eventually gone down in flames. From the third century BC in the First Macedonian War to Napoleon to World War II, the war of two fronts never works.

By trying to be everything to anyone McDonald’s has ended up nothing to everyone. Despite all their efforts the past 5 years, McDonald’s is not perceived as the ‘best’ in coffee. Starbucks is. They don’t have the best burger. Five Guys does. They don’t have the best chicken, best shakes or best sandwiches. They don’t have the best anything. They aren’t even that fast, that cheap or have that great of service anymore. Getting a McDonald’s employee to say thank you is nearly impossible.

The biggest myth of marketing is to believe that a bigger target market is the path to being a bigger brand. Too many Marketers are willing to target anyone. The second myth is believing that if you stand for everything, it will make your brand stronger. There are brands that say they are faster, longer-lasting, better-tasting, stronger, cheaper and have a better experience. They mistakenly think that whatever the competitor does best, they will try to do it better. They are willing to say everything, hoping the consumer hears something. Hope is never a strategy. The third myth is trying to be everywhere, whether that means being in every channel of distribution or being on every possible media option. The worst Marketers lack focus because of their fear of missing out on someone or something. By trying to be everything to anyone, the brand will end up nothing to everyone. By trying to be everywhere, the brand will eventually end up being no where. Strategy should never be random.

Every brand is constrained by limited resources, whether financial, time, people or partnership resources. Yet Marketers always face the temptation of an unlimited array of choices, whether those choices are in the possible target market, brand messages, strategies or tactics. The smartest Brand Leaders are able to limit their choices to match up to their limited resources. They focus on those choices that will deliver the greatest return. I always joke that strategic thinkers share one similar trait with lazy people. Both spend a lot of effort to figure out how to get the most back, by doing the least possible.

The best Brand Leaders never divide and conquer out of fear. Force yourself to focus and conquer with the confidence of strategic thinking. The smartest Brand Leaders use the word “or” more often than they use the word “and”. If you come to a decision point, and you try to rationalize in your own brain that it is okay to do a little of both, then you are not strategic. You are not even a decision-maker.

Trying to both at the same time means you will lose at both. I can no longer tell you what McDonald’s stands for. Can you?

So if you were McDonald’s, would you choose to win the burger war or the coffee war? I’d pick burgers.

McDonald's Story Starbucks turnaround

 

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