McDonald’s and Newsjacking Your Competitor’s Product Launch

This morning I did not bite into a succulent Waffle Taco. Come to think of it, I didn’t bite into any type of waffle taco whatsoever. It has been almost a week and I have yet to offer my review of Taco Bell’s breakfast, mostly because I haven’t eaten at a Taco Bell in years and don’t plan on starting now.

However, I’ve deeply enjoyed reading the various critiques by hard-hitting journalists who are using this as an opportunity to step into the op-ed side of the news pond – thank you, Businessweek.

While the reviews of Taco Bell’s breakfast have been mixed, there has been enough buzz and anticipation around it to put McDonald’s on the offensive. It launched a slew of social campaigns and promotions to keep its customers from turning into Taco Bell breakfast regulars.

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There’s Only Room for One Iconic Breakfast Item in This Town

Taco Bell has proven to be the first real competition in the fast food breakfast market since Burger King launched its menu in the 1980s. McDonald’s has had one of the most iconic breakfast foods ever created by a fast food chain. Many have tried, but no one has created a worthy competitor to the Egg McMuffin. Even though Burger King has been selling breakfast food for decades, few people can quickly name its menu off of the top of their heads.

Other brands, like Chick-fil-A, aren’t nationwide, so a strong breakfast menu isn’t much of a threat. Some national fast food joints – like Subway – try and force the idea just to make a quick buck. Can you name anything on the Subway breakfast menu?

Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts are known for breakfast, but they’re not in the same fast food league as Burger King, McDonalds, Taco Bell, and KFC. While McDonald’s has been trying to take the coffee market with McCafe and $1 coffees, it’s not threatened when Dunkin Donuts launches something like the Glazed Donut Breakfast Sandwich.

dunkinsandwichThe reason Taco Bell might register as a threat to the McDonald’s name is that it’s in the fast food family and is branding the hell out of one particular item: the Waffle Taco. Taco Bell is trying to bring the Waffle Taco to the same level of cult-classic fame as the McRib or Doritos Locos Taco. It wants to be something that people will drive hundreds of miles just to try.

Hit ‘Em Where it Hurts: Social is Taco Bell’s Home Turf

Taco Bell is one of the first names that come to mind when listing off successful Twitter strategies. Its Twitter account’s humor, rapport with other brands, and quick responses make it a hero to other social media channels. In order to connect with potential future Taco Bell breakfast customers, McDonald’s tried wading into the waters and going social themselves.

After posting various photos of its breakfast menu with captions like “Nothing Beats the Original #FirstMeal,” McDonald’s took over the Internet with one particular photo. In response to Taco Bell releasing an ad with Ronald McDonald characters turning their backs on their namesake company, McDonald’s made it personal when it brought back the long since retired Chihuahua.

People who don’t go to fast food restaurants normally, especially for breakfast, probably aren’t going to start going to Taco Bell for breakfast. This means the company’s two target markets are avid Taco Bell fans – who are likely to buy swag like Waffle Taco pajama pants – and daily breakfast fast food consumers. Taco Bell’s only chance at making its breakfast a success is to pull from the McDonald’s market.

When in Doubt, Give Out Free Stuff

McDonald’s, in an effort to both retain loyal customers and possibly bring in new ones, is offering free small coffees at participating locations for the next two weeks. Despite the fact that you can order a small, medium, or large for $1, McDonald’s thinks consumers will be drawn in with the temptation of a free small coffee and will also buy some hash browns and a McMuffin to go with it.

On one hand, all of this ribbing is good-natured. The companies are showing that they listen and are able to quickly fire back whenever a punch is thrown. However, a lot of these attacks have the same forced laughter that politicians on the campaign trail exhibit. One candidate takes a dig at another, while the other laughs and says, “but seriously…”

Throughout this whole process, McDonald’s has refused to let Taco Bell peacefully launch its breakfast menu. It has created social content, promotions, and events to tear down its latest competitor. In a perfect world, Taco Bell breakfast fades away in a few months and becomes a sad and distant memory – like Crystal Pepsi. However, if Taco Bell’s breakfast meets an early grave, it’ll probably have something to do with the quality and taste of the food instead of the newsjacking efforts by McDonald’s.

About the author

Amanda Dodge