I have serious serious serious commitment issues. The idea of being tied down to something is terrifying. Ultimately much of this seems to come from a refusal to be defined by what I do and instead wanting to be labeled as who I think I am. What I’m loathe to be is someone defined by their job title. The assumptions we assign to people simply because of their career choice. We’re surprised to meet altruistic investment bankers and self-absorbed non-profit workers because it clashes with our own preconceived notions of being. Yet this is what we are as humans, an amalgamation of experiences on a variety of backgrounds. One simple experience on one single background is not enough to paint of whole picture. But it’s this incomplete picture that we let define us and what we let other people see us as.
Much of it comes down to fear. We’re too afraid to take the risks that we need to take to be what we’re supposed to be. So much potential remains untapped. Too many vague ramblings on unread blogs instead of concerted effort on work that benefits others. Too much contentment in being like everyone else. Too much satisfaction in the status quo.
For some people, this type of life is perfect for them. All they want is stability and comfort. I can’t. The only time I feel like I’m free to move is when everything is crashing down around me. So that’s who I think I am but I still don’t know who I am.
Because I know that there are no boundaries, there is no need for permission to create, there are no barriers to anything I want to do. It just comes down to the matter of actually doing it.
So who am I? Just someone who’s very very very scared.
Two years ago I jotted some notes in a Word doc and called it “The King is Dead” where I boldly proclaimed (to myself) the inevitable decline of “The King.” And now, Burger King has officially overthrown (defenestrated?) their King and will roll out a new advertising campaign. However, merely changing the advertising campaign is not enough and unless Burger King seriously revamps it’s entire business, I only see them falling faster and faster into inevitable demise.
I pulled the 2008 annual reports from both Burger King and McDonald’s. In that year, McDonald’s spent more than seven times the money on advertising than Burger King did. In fact, Burger King’s total advertising expense ($92 million) was only marginally larger than McDonald’s advertising production costs ($79 million). Granted, McDonald’s is currently sitting at a market cap of $90 billion while Burger King’s purchase price last year by 3G Capital was $4.17 billion, so the disparity in numbers seems to make sense at first.
But let’s break it down a little bit. McDonald’s, being the enormous company that it is, can afford to spend millions and millions of dollars on advertising. Running the type of low cost, high volume operation that they do, it only makes sense for them to churn out ads and buy up as much ad space as possible. Burger King is attempting to run the exact same type of business but is also attempting to run the same type of marketing strategy. And in this type of pissing contest, Burger King will be washing its hands before McDonald’s even thinks about flushing. So money is actually a red herring and a faulty advertising campaign is not Burger King’s real problem. This leads me to…
Burger King has a serious image problem. What, exactly, do they stand for? Their main slogan is built around the saying of “Have it your way.” What does this even mean? I can go to McDonald’s and order a cheeseburger with no cheese. Burger King’s “differentiation” as a rebellious burger stand catering to your needs falls on its face when they don’t do anything different from their competition.
In fact, there’s no cohesion between Burger King’s restaurants and the ads that people see on TV. “The King” is a very creepy, devil-may-care type of rogue that plays by his own rules (and probably watches you while you’re in the shower). It’s a fun bit of rebellion and a playful riff on the juxtaposition of status (a king) and riffraff (he just doesn’t care what you think!). At a second glance, “The King” is actually a pretty standard hipster. The status of a king but ironically hawking the food of peasants. Just like the rich students at private universities wearing expensive blazers but a shirt they bought at a thrift store. This is a clever motif, except that none of it gets transferred to the actual restaurant locations. There is nothing edgy about a Burger King, nothing interesting, nothing even inviting. I’ve sat for a couple hours at a McDonald’s getting work done on my laptop or catching up on reading because they’ve done a nice job redecorating their locations. When I sit at a Burger King, I’m afraid I might get mugged.
As far as I’m concerned Burger King needs to take a step back, realize they can’t compete with the type of scale McDonald’s runs their operations on, and think of a new identity for themselves. They need to stop competing with McDonald’s entirely. I’m never going to throw on a Jordan jersey and ball in Rucker Park, I don’t know why this logic doesn’t transfer to the world of business.
Burger King’s food actually isn’t bad. I’ll take a Whopper to a Big Mac most days of the week. But McDonald’s has Rolo McFlurries and apple pies and good fries and chicken McNuggets. Burger King needs a menu renovation, not necessarily offer more items, but concetrate on the items that they do offer.
A Better Story
Burger King stands for nothing. It has absolutely no message, no story, no compelling reason why I should eat there. Give me one.
A Shift In Thinking
If I was a king, I would make sure they people know they’re peasants. A king doesn’t give things to me how I want them, he gives it to me the he wants to. That’s what a king does and maybe Burger King should too. “Oh, you don’t like mayo? Well eat anyways, The King says so.”
I touched on this earlier but Burger King is relatively small in terms of a national chain. It needs to focus it’s menu and advertising to target a very specific demographic and do it in a very specific and authentic way. Like if you want people who say “sk8 or die!!!11” you don’t want to get Tony Hawk in some cheesy advertisement. You want to have your message echo that same “sk8 or die” creed.
I don’t really see any of this happening. I think Burger King is a little too entrenched in its own way of thinking to actually make the changes it needs to make to survive and stay viable. Eventually, after further dwindling sales, it’ll package itself up and be sold to another conglomerate and eventually change into something else or vanish completely.
“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
We live in an age where everyone has a voice. If there is any doubt, spend 10 minutes on YouTube. We also live in an age where not everyone should use their voice. Once again, spend 10 minutes on YouTube.
Every year, the barriers to entry in the world of creativity decrease. Now anyone with a few hundred bucks can buy a DSLR, load some editing software on their computer, and call themselves a photographer. A couple hundred bucks can buy you a makeshift recording studio and make you a YouTube sensation. Blogs can and are made by everyone (as I am doing a wonderful job proving).
However, while the barriers to entry remain low, the cost of quality remains high. Just because you have a voice, it doesn’t mean you should use it. And if you use it, make it a good one.
I’m honestly not sure who follows this anymore but I’m taking a new direction from angsty posts about general emo-ness to posting my own observations on entrepreneurship, culture, and the few sports that I follow. Basically, I’m shooting for a less personal, personal blog.