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Return of the King?

Late last year, Burger King in Singapore changed hands to come under its new franchise owner, Malaysia-based firm Rancak Selera, part of Ekuiti Nasional Berhad’s (Ekuinas) portfolio of companies.

This gives Rancak Selera a 100% stake in Burger King (BK) Singapore and will see the company committing to expand and develop the brand in Singapore as well as Malaysia over the next 20 years.

One year later, has BK changed its strategy? Marketing reached Rancak Selera for more details, but the company could not comment in time for this article.

It seems not much has changed in terms of branding or product. According to its financial statements, it also saw a decrease in the number of stores from 45 in 2011 to 41 in 2012. While in the US, BK is recognised for its quirky and controversial ads that target adults with an adult-oriented tone-of-voice and execution, in Singapore, the brand is different. The brand’s communication remain largely promotional.

“BK recedes in the shadows of McDonald’s monolithic eclipse. It simply struggles to meaningfully connect with Singaporeans through the wash of McDonald’s communications,” says Futurebrand’s president Asia Pacific, Sarah Reiter.

Reiter notes that BK’s recent communications feature local teenage celebrities, suggesting its emphasis towards the younger crowd – students specifically.

“While it captures the younger audience with its purportedly catchy jingle and celebrity influence, it alienates the working adults and older segments, as seen through public comments that the ad campaign is too “ah beng””, adds Reiter.

Can the King regain its influence, or will it merely fall into the shadows?

Josh Grace, managing director, Leo Burnett Group Singapore

I don’t think Burger King really has a brand here. It has a name that is well known and a whole bunch of me-too products that it launches to compete against its competitors. But are they actually thinking about the customer?  I am not convinced.

Their recent TV spot reeks of their marketing strategy just being converted into a rap. Is the ‘strategy rap’ really the best we can do to connect with Gen Y and the millennials in Singapore? Singaporeans are one of the most tech-savvy, globally-connected people with access to the best content from around the world. We have to step it up if we want to connect with them.

A quick trip to their Facebook page and you will mostly see products being pushed with price points. Sure, everyone loves a great deal, but in this category all these deals blend into obscurity. In fact it seems from the comments that their page is just turning into a complaints hotline. Why would this strategy drive any loyalty over any of Burger Kings competitors?

If Burger King wants a brand, instead of just a well-known name, they have to take a good hard look at themselves. Stop the short-termism – the focus just on price.

Grace’s Guard

–            Find out what role they play in people’s lives. They certainly can’t compete on the personal relationship front, so how are they going to connect more meaningfully with the customers?

–            Create a bigger brand purpose and wrap it with an overarching idea that is truly engaging – use this idea to tie all the limited time only menu items together. Each piece of work then builds Burger King a brand for the long-term.

–            But most importantly, be brave with your creativity. It’s the only real competitive advantage any of us have left.

Sarah Reiter,  President APAC, FutureBrand

BK recedes in the shadows of McDonald’s monolithic eclipse. It simply struggles to meaningfully connect with Singaporeans through the wash of McDonald’s communications. The obvious and incorrect assumption would be that BK needs better communications campaigns and creatives. But this is not true.  This failed BK brand building program (and thus market share) in Singapore lies at the heart of the brand – BK’s soul – the idea BK stands for and its brand positioning. Its failure is further amplified by poor communication channel mix, outdated engagement and a brand experience, which ironically disenfranchises consumers.

In contrast, McDonald’s soul and brand positioning taps into the acknowledged trend among working professionals and young adults in Singapore for “healthy food”. Being more educated and informed, this particular crowd, with a higher purchasing power, often prefers “eating healthy” to taste.

To capture them, McDonald’s, in comparison to BK’s lurching brand positioning, targets hard with a focused idea and offer: has a refreshed menu that caters to a healthier diet, and has built its brand engagement around encouraging a healthier lifestyle.

McDonald’s approach, coupled with its existing high brand equity, makes it is easy to understand why BK has yet to win the battle in becoming the first-choice of fast-food among most Singaporeans.

BK should refocus its strategy and look to what its customers really need or want, recognising if the taste, price, or image is more important, and improve the quality of its offerings across its product, environment and brand experience.

Also, although there is much to improve in terms of product and customer experience, simply improving what is advertised and what is actually offered would deliver immediate results.

Reiter’s Remedy

  • Understand what BK wants to offer to the Asian consumer
  • Improve quality of product offerings
  • Build the product offering and consumer experience around it in contemporary ways and BK could outperform McDonalds.


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