McDonald's Billboard Advertising

According to a recent news report in McDonald’s have erected a billboard in sight of Starbucks headquarters declaring, “four bucks is dumb.” The article goes on to say,

If Dunkin’ Donuts’ taste test commercials were the schoolyard equivalent of blowing spitballs at the coffee giant from afar, then the latest from McDonald’s is like pulling a wedgie. Starbucks employees driving northbound can see the billboard on their way into the city.

Another billboard slogan jabs, “large is the new grande.” The two phrases are displayed on 140 billboards in Western Washington, some of them near Starbucks cafes.

“The billboard placement was done because we picked high visibility locations,” said Alan Finkelstein, who owns four McDonald’s in King County. “We really wanted to point out that ordering an espresso at McDonald’s is quick and simple. Small, medium and large. It’s easy.”

Earlier this year, McDonald’s started to promote the launch of espresso drinks in the Seattle market.

Back in October, when the Dow was swinging like a pendulum in the wind, I too questioned the merits of spending ‘four bucks’ on a latte in my post, ‘Are You Clueless For Drinking Starbucks‘. But to compare Starbucks coffee to Mickey D’s coffee is strictly sacrilege. 

In truth, my personal footprint in Starbucks’ stores has diminished in the last few months, but my loyalty towards the brand is very much intact. I’ve simply changed my consumption pattern. I now purchase several pounds of Starbucks coffee each month at the grocery store — a more cost-effective alternative then buying one-offs at the company’s retail outlets.

Fact is, their coffee is good. Dark, nutty, earthy, buttery flavors with hints of cinnamon and citrus wake me up in the morning and fill my house with an aroma that, at 5am, smells like manna from heaven.

I’ve tasted McDonald’s coffee on road trips and I’ve got one word for you — SWILL. It might keep your eye’s open at 3am — but it’s not going to comfort your soul or start your day on the right foot.

But I’m not blind either. Starbucks has a real conundrum on its hands. The brand either leans into its destinations as part of its overall unique experience (e.g., comfortable couches, wifi, social, etc.) which neither McDonald’s nor Dunkin Donuts can claim or it starts punching up its taste benefits, which may not be a strong enough claim at this time.

Either way, I fear Starbucks is going to take an even bigger hit in this recession unless it comes up with a new messaging strategy quickly.