By launching a lower-fat fry, Burger King is hoping to take a bigger bite out of the fast-food market. Regardless of how things shake out, however, Burger King has a new message for consumers.
Rolling out “Satisfries”—which Burger King says delivers about 40% less fat and 30% fewer calories than the fries sold by its archrival McDonald’s—is part of a new PR recipe at Burger King (which may be adopted by other fast-food companies grappling with changing consumer habits).
Fast-food companies, of course, have been tripping over themselves the last few years to add healthier fare to their menus. Burger King, for example, has added choices such as cranberry apple salads and mango smoothies, according to The New York Times.
Yet the reality is that people go to fast-food restaurants for burgers, fries and shakes because they taste so good, never mind the cranberry apple salads.
Eric Hirschhorn, CMO of Burger King, said as much when he told Time magazine: “We know that attitudes are changing and our consumers are becoming more mindful of the foods they eat. But changing attitudes is much different than changing behavior. We have seen time and again that consumers don’t want to sacrifice the foods they love. We set out to introduce a great tasting french fry with all the french fry attributes that people expect—crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.”
It’s that consistency of message—Hirschhorn had a similar quote in the Times regarding changing consumer behaviors—that holds a few lesson for communicators.
The PR lessons have nothing to do with the nutritional value of Burger King’s new fry and everything to do with staying on message and taking a more realistic approach to the marketplace.
By admitting that “nobody buys” the healthier fare at fast-food restaurants, Hirschhorn is playing it straight with both consumers and investors and not touting a message, er, grilled chicken for everyone, that the brand could not back up.
At the same time, he’s communicating that Burger King is addressing how consumers’ tastes are changing, but without sacrificing why people patronize brand in the first place.
Hirschhorn also shows a flair for aligning humor with a brand message, telling the Times: “You live in Manhattan and might be having a kale smoothie on your way to work this morning. But a lot of people don’t even know what kale is, and if they do, they don’t want to eat it. You have to give people what they want.”
Follow Matthew Schwartz: @mpsjourno1