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Top Dog Vs the Under Dog

McDonald’s and Burger King’s rivalry has been raging since the mid-1950s. The original McDonalds concept was conceived in 1948 by the McDonald brothers, who rebranded their hot dog stand to be more concentrated and efficient (McDonald’sCorporation, 1998).  Inspired by McDonald’s’ efficiency, Burger King’s founders decided to make a similar restaurant in 1953, Burger King. (Burger King Corporation., 2020).  

            McDonald’s is the obvious ”top dog’ in this rivalry since they came first chronologically and invented the efficient, small menu, quick-serve restaurant idea. When it comes to branding strategy, McDonald’s uses the “proactive strategy.” McDonald’s is constantly innovating new menu items and reinventing their brand and positioning. This strategy is apparent in their ads for new menu items across the world, like this ad from McDonald’s Japan.

Tsukimi is a fall festival where people view the first Autumn harvest moon with family and friends. It is a popular holiday in Japan and is similar to Thanksgiving in the United States (Nippon Communications Foundation, 2020). McDonald’s created this regional menu specifically for Japan that highlights the culture of the people there. McDonald’s chose to develop or rejuvenate these products for an existing market of users in Japan, and possibly to penetrate new markets of Japanese people who may not have been familiar with McDonald’s. 

Though Burger King may have initially been using the reactive strategy in competition with McDonald’s, it seems the company has switched to a proactive approach in researching new markets and focusing on brand positioning. One concept they employ is reaching out to Millennials and Generation Z segments through tech and culture. They are also utilizing new tech likes apps and social media to reposition their brand as a hip alternative to McDonald’s.

Burger King appears to have a good grasp on rebranding and may already be on their way to surpassing McDonald’s. Here are a few recommendations that may help.

  •             Brand equity management- Burger King often takes the number 2 spot in people’s minds, and Burger will need to change that by establishing a strong brand identity. They are shedding the weird “Burger thief” identity and trying to move into a relevant and hipper concept for younger generations. McDonald’s, from the beginning, tried to focus on the ‘family” segment rather than young people. Burger King may be able to sweep in and grab this segment by being culturally relevant and ‘real,” as these segments specifically appreciate (Igielnik, 2020). Burger Kinds should show these segments who and what they are about through identity and meaning (Cline, T. W., Cronley, M. L., Kardes, F. R., 2015). This concept will help them resonate with their desired new segments.
  •             According to Consumer Behavior by Cline, T. W., Cronley, M. L., Kardes, and F. R., “Underdogs need to disrupt the status quo.” Burger King needs to challenge their consumers to change their mindset about Burger King being only second best in the burger game. Burger King should concentrate on making their products better than McDonald’s and then having consumers try a blind taste test. This plan could integrate well with their current social media and tech strategies.
  •             Retention is another area that Burger King can improve their strategies. Loyalty programs can help consumers continue to purchase from a company and can create loyalty to that company (Cline, T. W., Cronley, M. L., Kardes, F. R. (2015). Although they have created an app recently with some perks, I think this could expand to include other companies as collaborators (Koltun, N., 2019). For instance, joining with Android, or Apple, or other companies that their target segments often use could bring them new customers as well as help them to retain their current customer base. 

 It may be that McDonald’s is the originator of the counter service concept, or it may just be that the french fries are simply better at McDonald’s. I can’t say for sure why they are known as the “Top Dog,” in the fast-food burger industry. I agree that the fries are better at McDonald’s. Secondly, I think there have always been more McDonalds’ in the places I have lived. Ironically, my Mom worked at Burger King as a teenager, and prefers Burger King! I was just never very impressed with their food, although I don’t eat at either place anymore, as a foodie, and food snob! I may give Burger King a try though, as their new positioning efforts are fascinating and I like that they are targeting my segment!


Burger King Corporation. (2020) International Directory of Company Histories.Retrieved August 11, 2020, from

Cline, T. W., Cronley, M. L., Kardes, F. R. (2015). Consumer Behavior. [MBS Direct]. Retrieved from

Igielnik, K. (2020, May 15). What We Know About Gen Z So Far. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from

Koltun, N. (2019, December 09). Marketer of the Year: Burger King. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from

McDonald’s Corporation. (1998, July 4). Restaurant Innovator Richard McDonald Dies at 89: Pioneered McDonald’s, World’s Largest Restaurant System [Press release]. Retrieved October 2, 2020, from

Nippon Communications Foundation. (2020, May 30). “Tsukimi”: The Japanese Tradition of Autumn Moon Viewing. Retrieved October 02, 2020, from


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