Ever wonder what that coveted 18-to-34 age group really thinks about fast food choices? Now, an intriguing video answers that question in the ‘Fast Food Burger Taste Test.’
What’s the demographic marketers covert the most? 18 to 34-year-olds.
Why? Because for one, their brand loyalties are often unformed, or at least not firmly entrenched at a younger age.
Second, they’re more likely to try new products, new flavors and new concepts.
And third, they tend to spend a greater percentage of their disposable income on consumer products, often without as much concern for discounts, coupons and deals as their older peers and parents.
And there’s nothing that gladdens the hearts of marketers everywhere like those three magic words: “Full retail value.”
Now, I trust you’re aware of the marketing demographics labeled as Boomers, Xers and Millennials, the cohorts born 1946-64, 1965-82 and 1984-2003, respectively. Although there are some strong similarities among the age groups when asked what matters most to them, the Millennials, those 18 to 34-year-olds, are most noted for purchasing preferences that emphasize being inspired, choosing products and developing brand loyalties based on distinctive, meaningful differences.
With that backdrop, it was interesting to view a video on Buzzfeed.com, the trendy website that caters to Millennials (and younger folks), in which some “hipster panelists” conducted a blind taste test of fastfood burgers.
Most of the major chains were represented, and although there’s no way to know how consistently the samples were prepared, how fresh, how hot, how many minutes or hours products were held after purchase, etc., the comments and ranking were insightful.
Here’s a brief summary of the panel’s reactions (full video available here), with the comments as spoken by the panelists:
- Burger King. “It’s like, glued together.” “I mean, when the pickle is most important taste in the burger, that’s when you’re trying to cover up some real s***.” “It’s like the burger you get in a cafeteria.” “I can’t even eat that one. That’s not even a burger.”
- Carl’s Jr. “Just sad, like the person who made this has just given up.” “Oh — this is a veggie burger, right?” “Dry; a very dry burger.” [Girl gives up sampling it, tosses back on the plate] “I don’t like this one.”
- Five Guys. “It looks good; this is good.” “I’m tearing up right now, [because] this looks so good.” “It’s so greasy!” (a girl). “It’s so good!” (a guy). “This tastes the most like meat.” “Not a lot of ‘wow factor,’ but it’s solid.”
- In-N-Out Burger. “”Very fresh — and awesome — and, everything tastes real in it.” “No one else puts an entire onion on their burger.” “I am not a fan of putting the lettuce below the burger; for me, that’s a deal-breaker.” The bun is perfectly fresh and crunchy.”
- McDonald’s. “These are like Nikes; you can point them out — that’s a McDonald’s burger. It’s brand recognition. You look at it and say, ‘That’s McDonald’s.’ ” “It’s got that hallmark bun; look at that. Nobody makes a bun like that.” “The feat of McDonald’s is how engineered it is. They’re geniuses. It always tastes exactly the same.” “It tastes great, but it’s probably really bad for you.”
- Wendy’s. “Decent quality meat.” “Tasty, fresh-tasting.” “American cheese on top and bottom — now that requires skill!” “Nice, crisp vegetables: good pickle, good onion, good iceberg.” “Decent quality meat — I’m impressed.” “Damn! This is good!”
You can see the similarities here that are viewed as positive attributes: Freshness, eye appeal, quality of toppings, sensory look and feel (not good if it appears “glued together”) and of course, the flavor and mouthfeel of the burger itself. Although the meat wasn’t necessarily the most critical deciding factor, if the beef is bad, no way the burger passes muster.
In fact, one intriguing comment posted to the video was from a younger consumer who said, “When I go to a new restaurant, I always order a plain burger with nothing on it — just so I can really judge the quality.”
Based on some of the comments above, it’s a good thing there aren’t more people like that person, or some of these chains would be in real trouble.
As another commenter noted, “Do we really care about what a bunch of hipster doofuses think about fast-food burgers?” Well, if you’re in the business, yeah; you do care. Although it’s not as powerful a draw as it used to be, like the meat department in a supermarket, the quality of a restaurant’s burgers is often the deciding factor for entire parties to determine where they’re going to eat, and to whom they’re going to give their money.
The video ends, of course, with the dramatic finishing question: Who Won?
As you might have already guessed, hands down, it was Wendy’s. Although a couple panelists expressed surprise when their choices were revealed, nobody objected. Clearly, the freshness, flavor and overall quality was superior to all the others.
Interesting, isn’t it, that with all the marketing hype, food engineering, flame-broiled imagery and shameless sexploitation other chains employ, even with Millennial hipsters the choice comes down to eating satisfaction.
There’s a mouthful to chew on, marketers.
Dan Murphy is a food-industry journalist and commentator