QSR case history: Salad and craving
Here’s a new success story, aka qualitative case history, that I heard last week in Toronto from our fast food client. Our research team did two large culture-specific authentic ethnographies that were live, in context, at the right timing, and in-person—along with focus groups and digital ethnography—in consumer homes and in their favorite fast food restaurants. It was for a QSR (quick serve restaurant) brand with almost 100% visibility internationally. We conducted the work in North America. After hours of observation—but definitely from the very beginning to the end of our ethnographies—our anthropologists discovered the subtle emotional obstacle that was also the biggest core insight. Craving. What we saw and experienced: When moms and dads went through the threshold of this QSR with their kids, they entered into a known atmosphere of craving and indulgence that they loved, desired, and that then took them over. Even and especially if these consumers represented a typology who much preferred salads, natural and lighter meals, or eating healthy organic foods (we did an algorithm to be sure this conscious, healthy-eating typology was being studied), they invariably felt attracted and pushed as if against their wills to eat whatever they wanted (probably from childhood) inside the QSR. Then they felt guilty, later. Basically, as soon as they passed through the brand’s portal, they found themselves compelled to indulge with fries, multilayered burgers, and flurries of desserts even though the QSR’s salads were advertised, readily available, of several wonderful varieties, and deliciously, amazingly fresh. This QSR had been using a freshness positioning for their salad advertising—over 30 years of freshness ads—from 1987 into early 2017. It wasn’t working. Freshness is a given and of course it’s the category standard. Then the insight consumer research manager, when reviewing more fresh salad advertising storyboards, remembered the key insight and obstacle from our ethnography. It was craving. She convinced the agency to flip freshness and do a new campaign based upon archetypal craving for their salads. The agency developed a new commercial based upon craving and indulgence, with a male-female couple kidding around about who goes to this QSR to eat salads anyhow, the trickster-like male character with gestures of stealing indulgent ingredients from her salad, and beauty appearance elements of craving in the salad visuals. The ads moved from outmoded Innocent to new Transformer archetype. Result: Salads are flying off the shelves. The commercial is differentiating, motivating, and recalled. Healthy-eating consumers are coming to the QSR and eating salads with delight and indulgence. They experience no guilt and return for more. The advertising campaign for salads is no longer the category stereotype, which is taken for granted by consumers, but aligned with the brand’s core insight of craving based upon real-life, true, emotional, archetypal resonance. Conquer your craving!