How Local Marketing Gave SMBs The Edge on Mcdonalds

15 Jul, 2020

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Whether it's a classic cheeseburger or a meat-free beyond-tofu-impossible-super-burger, In the last decade, all over the world, people went completely crazy for burgers. In fact, between Jan 2004  and July 2019, there was a 10  fold, or greater, increase in the number of searches for burgers in the US, Canada, and Australia. During the same period in the UK search numbers for the term increased by roughly five times.

The only English speaking country studied that hasn’t seen an overall increase is India, which has a very different food culture and culinary pallet; considering the fact that nearly half of all Indians are vegetarian, it will be interesting to see if searches for burgers increase in the coming years with plant-based alternatives growing in variety and popularity. The interest in meat-free alternatives is evident in global search results where one of the most well-known brands of plant-based burgers “impossible burger” is one of the top 5 rising terms in the world.

1 Burger near me

2 Burger king near me

3 Impossible burger

4 Food near me

5 Umami burger 

Google trends Rising related global search queries for the term burger June 2020

Despite this burger fever all over the world, Mcdonalds, an icon of Generation X's affinity for big brands has suffered many years of declining revenue. With those top five rising trends in mind, it might be easy to think that Mcdonald’s biggest rival: Burger King is responsible for the Big Mac maker’s decline. But it is also important to remember that if Mcdonalds lost half of its revenue it would still be the biggest seller of burgers in the world. So Burger King has a lot more space for growth before it reaches the same point of stagnation that Mcdonalds currently finds itself in. 

We could also blame the managers of those golden arches; The rollout of those bewildering ordering screens; or that museum exhibit in Iceland of a Mcdonald's burger and fries that has hardly decayed since 2009. Well maybe the last one - a bit, but there is very little any established fast-food chains could have done to create growth figures similar to those of the days of old because we now live in different times. A recent study from Nielsen found that 92% of global consumers don't consider themselves to be brand loyal. The modern consumer is looking for something beyond the big corporate brands of the 90s. They are looking for an experience, and the first place they are looking is around them. 54% of consumers try to buy mostly locally. Consumer habits have changed. In the decade of McDonald’s stagnation, whole new food culture has been developing, one that wants a personalized local experience, and isn’t so keen on eating bread that once contained chemicals used to make yoga mats.  

The Death of Big Brands

If the people searching for Burgers on Google aren’t going to the big burger chains, where are they going? The answer to this question is easily found,  just ask your nearest foody friend if they know a good burger place. Even in the smallest town, they will likely suggest a handful of them. From classic home-style burger bars to authentic street food vendors and all kinds of burger reinventions. Today our towns and cities are full of great local burger places that cater to every taste and dietary preference. These local businesses have profited from the changing values of consumers.

Consumers Want Local Products

A recent study from Deloitte on economies of the future identified the growth of two key demographics: ethically conscious eaters; and environmentalists/ welfare-driven consumers. Both of these groups are far more interested in what’s in their food and where it comes from. They enjoy a more personalized connected experience of eating out. They want to connect with business owners and support local businesses. Yet they still enjoy the experience of eating out, burgers included, but they are looking beyond the golden arches, and have a big interest in less processed vegetarian and organic burgers.  These consumers are creating a “demand for food that is sourced and prepared locally, supporting the rise of thousands of smaller restaurants and home kitchens”.   Small local businesses are better able to serve these more nuanced demands and preferences because they have a much better connection with their local community and consumers are willing to pay more for their products. 

Why SMBs Have The Advantage

Even if the big fast-food chains wanted to chase these new developing markets, reforming their supply chains to cater to these needs would take many years to achieve, and the increase in prices required to bring in fresher ingredients would risk alienating price-conscious consumers from previous generations, who are less concerned about ingredients but are decreasing in numbers over time, leaving McDonald's stuck between a rock and a hard place. SMBs are agile enough to cater to these changing needs and they can really profit from them providing they market themselves effectively.

Local SEO, Smartphones & SMBs 

Another reason why customers have begun to choose more local businesses over the large chain of the 90s comes down to the revolutionary role of technology and the internet. Before smartphone navigation became the consumer’s primary way of getting around, more people stuck to the main shopping streets when looking for food choices. High rents on these shopping streets made it harder for smaller businesses to enter these areas. Smartphones have opened up other parts of town making it easier for smaller businesses off main shopping streets to attract customers. This is a key reason why we have seen a huge increase in the number of small local burger restaurants emerging.

Local marketing has also helped these new businesses to get customers to try their products for the first time and to establish their brand reputation in their local communities. Local Directory and online Reviews sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor have made it possible for these businesses to remove customers' fear of trying new things and made them more interested in doing so, which doesn’t help the chains: Once you've tried one Big Mac you’ve tried them all. 

The Decade of The SMB

So now we know. It’s not all Mcdonald’s fault. People’s changing consumer values and the evolution of Digital Marketing over the last decade have completely changed the competitive landscape of the food and hospitality industry. Small businesses such as burger bars can be successful in town because local marketing has made it possible for them to attract customers, even if they are not situated on the main shopping streets. These businesses have also been helped by review platforms that have given customers more confidence to try new things. Smartphones have made us all into adventurers and explorers. Consumers want experiences,  they want quality and they want connections - all needs that SMBs are much better at catering to than multinational fast-food chains. Sorry, McDonald's this is the decade of the SMB. Get out and support those businesses as soon as can! 

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