McDonald’s and Starbucks are two of the most successful and iconic consumer brands in the world. In recent weeks, I’ve received several new coupons for McDonald’s new McCafe lattes and mochas throuh it’s big marketing push for the new drinks. Starbucks (who has been struggling lately after years of outperformance) must be concerned about its new-found competition.
I came upon this piece on Pierce Mattie PR‘s website (note: I am not affliated with them in any respect), and thought they asked an interesting question:
Will this new campaign help McDonald’s become the coffee brand of choice?
Here’s what I think:
McCafe will not replace Starbucks. The consumers who are seeking the ambiance and the customization that Starbucks offers will not flock en mass to McCafes. McDonald’s, to me, appears “transactional.” People pull up to the drive-through and get a Big Mac and a diet coke, or stop by before work to grab a new latte. Despite the happy characterization of Mickey D’s commercials, few people I know would suggest that as a spot for an after-date drink or a catch-up session with girlfriends.
Starbucks, on the other hand, focuses on the “experiential”. At its best, the coffee giant truly represents the “third space” between home and work where a customer can chat with the barista, order a drink to his specification, then settle in for conversation, socializing, and relaxation. Before he leaves the store, he might pick up a CD or a Starbucks coffee mug
If McDonald’s can woo the consumers who go to Starbucks four times a week and convince them to frequent McCafe twice instead, it will have achieved great success. These consumers are likely to be more interested in a transactional experience even at Starbucks (i.e. the quick morning coffee vs. the drawn-out coffee date or after-work snack).
McDonald’s chose a very opportune moment to push the McCafe concept – in the recession all consumers are looking for a better value-proposition, and McDonalds seeks to deliver that with a lower (than specialty coffee) price point but a higher (than perceived McDonald’s coffee) quality. Before the recession, an office worker may have bought a $4 frappacino before her morning meeting. Now, with a tighter budget, she may instead grab a $2 McCafe latte.
I’m not sure if the McCafe concept as a stand-alone store will catch on – I’ve visited a McCafe, and while the space is nicer and more “coffeehouse-like” than a regular McDonald’s, it’s still a far cry from the styling and the comfort of a Starbucks. I’m very excited to hear that McCafe will be coming out with new drinks over the upcoming months. More coffee drinks are always good in my book!
What do you think? What were your experiences with McCafe drinks, and would you forgo Starbucks for McCafe instead?
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