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Playing the Coffee Game
By: Janet Kalandranis
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Somehow, at some point in time, the fast-food industry decided coffee was its game. Not everyday coffee, but the slightly higher, slightly better kind many consumers prefer. It’s almost opposite, yet this industry refuses to let these dollars be captured by anyone else. It started with McDonald’s, which has put a prime focus on coffee in recent years, and today includes the “other” one — Burger King. And this fast-food chain isn’t kidding around; they came prepared and plan to play to win.

Americans love their coffee so it’s not surprising that food brands want a part of the pie. It’s just a little confusing...well, at least at first. Burger King is playing catch-up to McDonald’s, which entered this coffee game in 2007. The double arches started with introducing a new brand of coffee and then followed this up with its McCafe line, which includes those specialty espresso drinks. So Burger King took some time and now has entered the challenge by offering a new coffee from Seattle’s Best Coffee. It’s a smart move for the brand as it couldn’t simply stand by and watch its competitors compete and win without even giving it a chance.

And the coffee game wasn’t thought up in a boardroom with closed doors. It was forced upon fast-food brands by Americans' obsession with coffee — really good coffee. If McDonald’s and Burger King could participate in the coffee game, this could be another outlet of success for these brands. And Burger King came out of the gate with its new coffee and a line of espresso treats for consumers. The brand knows coffee drinkers are more sophisticated these days and therefore had to provide something to compete in the marketplace. From a brand perspective, this all makes sense. From a coffee drinker’s perspective, there might be some convincing that needs to happen.

McDonald’s and Burger King are in the coffee business, or at least that’s what they believe. But these brands must make sure customers have the same feeling. These brands are playing in a different game, one that is directed by other brands and one where customers don’t assume fast food has a place. So the challenge isn’t to play in the game necessarily, but to actually convince consumers that they belong there. Good luck, fast food. Bring your best cup to the table.

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About the Author
Janet Kalandranis is here to give you all the little brand thoughts that run through her head with a little dash of spice. Find her online here.
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