It’s easy to play armchair quarterback. We can talk theory all day long and it’s when the rubber hits the road that we learn what really works. Here, I apply my experience and education to one of my favorite places before getting off of red meat – White Castle. I’m anxious to read how you can apply the lessons from this case study.
The strategic marketing issue that is addressed in the White Castle Restaurant Case is that given the consumer attitudes towards fast food and the overwhelming competition from national purveyors of fast food with their franchises; what White Castle needs is a focus on their core strengths and tight market niche as the low cost value meal for low to upper-low income consumers.
In response to this issue we would deliver a marketing campaign that would emphasize the strengths of the franchise and target the niche market. To accomplish this we recommend using Television, and print advertising, and point to the company website on these advertisements.
- White Castle restaurants still service customers 24 hours a day. This makes them different than their competitors.
- Employees are given better opportunities which shows in their service and length of employment.
- White Castle hamburgers are steamed which makes them perfect for frozen food shelf life.
- Product is very cheap so that target customers can afford them.
- Very loyal customer base that has even been called fanatic at times.
- Very nutritious. Serves all American beef that is U.S. graded.
- Runs its’ own meat processing plants, bakeries, and manufacturing plant which produces all their own metal products.
- Very fast service attributed to limited menu that simplifies the ordering process.
- Unique Taste that cannot be bought or duplicated anywhere else.
- Sluggish growth due to funding coming directly from the still family owned organization.
- Limited marketing, not capitalizing on core strengths.
- May be able to get children of loyal customers hooked on their product
- Can enter more untouched markets with continued growth.
- As more companies are willing to add more and more products to their menus, white castle can build on their strength of being unique.
- More International franchising opportunities may be available in foreign markets.
- Use the internet as another source of sales that is inline with the current distribution methods.
- New technologies making it faster and more convenient to dine at home
- The fast food market is providing more competition constantly.
- Competitors are willing to copy White Castle’s menu items making them no longer unique.
- Consumers are constantly looking for more choices: healthier, tastier, cheaper, and more convenient.
- Consumer’s schedules are tighter than ever making it harder to get them into restaurants.
- Manufacturing may not be able to keep up with continued growth.
- Competitors are bringing their costs down to satisfy the market.
Marketing Campaign detail
According to an article titled “At Long Last, Change” from Chain Leader- a restaurant trade magazine (2001) – The company has updated its logo for the second time in the organization’s eighty year existence and has altered its stores to reflect the update as well. The drive through is now called the crave-thru; a “Crave Zone” sign is now over the cook area, restaurant seating now accommodates group seating and interior design includes the new color scheme of white, blue, and orange, with wood and chrome accents (para. 3-5).
To showcase the tradition and long history of the company and loyalty of consumers; our marketing firm wants to have a campaign of educating the current and new consumer to the fact that White Castle has been in existence since 1921. They are the first and are the original burger and fries fast food restaurant. Our ads will highlight the fact that White Castle was the first to sell over a billion hamburgers. Another fact would be that the company invented the first industrial strength spatula to handle the demand for their hamburgers.
While the viewer is thinking of how long White Castle has been around, the ad would then focus on current competitors. The transition would be: White Castle has been making burgers well before the other clowns… We were here for you during the great depression. We served the generation who fought in WWII. We were making great burgers and fries before the other clowns were born, and while they were fighting between each other over who was better, and over the value of flame broiled or fried; we steam cook our burgers – always have, always will. While they added and changed menu items to the point of confusion; we have always been true to ourselves, what we stand for, and to you, our customer. So while the other clowns are chasing the latest diet fad and pretending to be something they’re not; we will be here for you; open 24 hours to serve you what you crave; great quality hamburgers and American fries at a great price.
That television spot would be directed at the target and broader market in the target regions of business operations. Another television spot would be directed at the younger, unmarried segment of the target market. This advertisement would show a group of young guys and girls leaving a club or party; craving food early in the morning, and they dig through their pockets and pull out pocket change. Driving past other places that are closed, they go to White Castle for a delicious meal at a great price, and they see Jack and Ronald in line to order food.
A television spot directed to the family segment would have a close up of the family at a playground. The camera pulls away to show that it is a McDonalds, and the parents say to their children “OK kids, lets get something to eat!” Then the next scene is the same family eating at White Castle; showcasing the kid’s meals and family atmosphere.
Print ads would show differentiation. One would have an image of a salad from one of the competitors’ and a meal from White Castle with a caption asking “Are you a rabbit or a man?” Another print advertisement would show the price value of what can be purchased for the same amount of money at White Castle compared with a competitor. The advertisement would have an image of the typical meal at the “other place” and a pile of burgers and plate full of fries from White Castle.
These advertisements should attract both the upper and lower age range of the target market while reaching out to a broader range of consumers. These spots would also display the website address of the company at the end of the spot to market internet surfers. The website would also have an ordering page for the frozen food. This would serve two functions: first, to market the product to areas not serviced by local grocers, and second to find, as well as help forecast market region demand for future stores. The website would also be more dynamic and interactive in nature. Being data driven and utilizing CSS with the current web standards applied as well, the site would be optimized for search engine marketing for both natural and paid search terms. The keywords would include both online and offline words used to take advantage of offline marketing. Another facet to this marketing campaign is to go on the offensive with the attacks from the trial lawyers that are now planning to sue fast food restaurants for making people obese, on the premise that fast food is addictive. “One man in the Bronx has already filed the first class action lawsuit” (G. Sealey, 2003).
What the restaurants would do is place signage on entrances warning that the smell of the food inside may induce the purchasing of the product; that the surgeon general has determined that eating the product may be habit forming and addictive. Entrance to the establishment is at the consumer’s own risk and by entering and purchasing, the consumer accepts that White Castle removes any responsibility of the probable addiction that will occur after one bite. Warning labels will also be on the packaging.
This marketing strategy answers the growing competition in regional markets by focusing on the core strengths: the long history of the chain, they are still family owned, the brand loyalty of the consumer and how the chain has been loyal to what the consumer craves, as wells as illustrating the differentiation and consistency in price and quality. The campaign also addresses the current situation with probable class action lawsuits against fast food industry.
In conclusion, the response to the encroaching competition and recent developments in the culture is in the proposed advertising campaign. The campaign points out the history of the company. It shows the loyal relationship between the company and the community it serves, as well as identifies the typical customers. It emphasizes the unchanged menu, and unchanged quality of the food.
These are the strengths to focus on and operate from. White Castle is known as the low price leader serving the blue collar/common person. That has not changed in the company’s eighty year history so it should not change now. The company; in addition to its restaurants, has an established distribution system of shipping frozen product direct to consumers as well as to grocers. The company can capitalize on this expertise and expand it to internet orders. This would fit within the current business model unlike moving into a totally unrelated field. Handled properly, this strategy would increase interest from new customers, loyalty of existing customers, and defend against or at least slow down the competition entering the market.
So what do you think? What nuggets did you get from this and how could you apply it to your business? I’m waiting to read your opinions.