There are many things that come to mind when the subject of Quick Service Restaurants (aka QSR/Fast Food) comes up. Over the past fifty years the proliferation of QSR locations have flooded the landscape to the point where it has changed our eating habits, our expectations for low price and convenience and of course the way we grow and process our food. These days, the business is as competitive as ever and QSR competitors are searching for new ways to attract and retain customers while others are  trying to deal with ever changing management structure.

When I worked for McDonald’s Corporation as a Regional Marketing Supervisor, in addition to being in the field, I attended Hamburger University and learned a lot about how McDonald’s ran its massive business and was duly impressed with its simple business strategy of owning the land and leasing it to Owner Operators and then charging a rent fee based on the restaurant sales figures. It was a great learning experience to be immersed in corporate America and to be a part of the inner workings of one of the countries most recognized symbols of capitalism. It gave me a unique perspective to view both the positive and negative sides of the QSR business and to focus on what works and avoid what is detrimental to the business, the consumer and the environment.


It’s been several years since tobacco advertising and sponsorship has been banned and along with the expanding bans on smoking in restaurants and bars the means and ways to communicate their brand messages are becoming more clever and indirect.

In the mid-90’s I was in Singapore for a week and couldn’t help but notice that Dunhill was being advertised everywhere – but not the cigarettes, instead Dunhill was in the business of selling luxury goods including watches, luggage and apparel for men. I am not a smoker but couldn’t but help thinking this was a smart marketing decision because not only did Dunhill get to advertise its brand name it also associated itself with an upper class and distinguished class – which is exactly the target audience for the cigarettes. Of course the history of Alfred Dunhill (which is pipes, luxury goods and cigarettes) preceded the ban on tobacco advertising by 100 years but I was unaware of this at the time and wondered why more tobacco companies weren’t diversifying their product offerings in order to circumvent the ban.

More recently the folks at Marlboro have been using bar codes to communicate the brand on Formula 1 race cars. In Fast Company the article shows the before and after pictures of the race car showing the bar code. Although they have since been forced to remove these bar codes it was still an interesting and subversive way to advertise.


In the latest Brand Z Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands Google, with IBM and Apple were listed as the top three brands–and out of the top 10, there are just three non-tech brands: McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Marlboro. What will the future hold for non-tech brands?

Some interesting quotes from the Brand Z Report:

“… consumers became well-informed brand advocates and critics, fortified with knowledge about price, product, and supply gained from searching the Internet and sharing information on Facebook and other social networking sites. This democracy of commerce superseded the sovereignty of companies. Brand leadership required sharing some power in order to retain any power.”

“Brands’ success today requires Trust plus Recommendation. This conclusion emerged from BrandZ research across thousands of brands. It resulted in a new metric, the TrustR score, for helping brands realize their full power.”

Updated: June 15, 2010

As a marketer and advertiser who understands the importance of consumer packaging across the marketing mix (4 P’s – product, price, place, promotion) I am also concerned about how retail industries should be using more biodegradable and recycled packaging.  I recognize that it comes down to the simple economics of cost and practicality as much as function, convenience and of course brand image, but much like the movement to rid styrofoam of CFC’s back in the late 80’s, there needs to be a new movement to ensure all, or most, packaging becomes recyclable, biodegradable and/or re-used.

While walking the local grocery isle I am often perplexed by the variety of packaging that seems to be well above and beyond what is needed to contain and promote the product. Excess plastic and non-functional design make some of these products difficult to purchase since the company hasn’t thought about its packaging strategy beyond cost. Yes, I am being general (there are probably many examples of eco-friendly packaging that are also functional) but there aren’t enough products with eco-friendly packaging available.

The folks at Frito-Lay are promoting their new eco-friendly and biodegradable Sun Chips bags which is a start, but why aren’t they extending this practice to all their packaging? (And, as a pet peeve, these new bags make a lot of noise.)


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