'Happy' meal vs. 'indulgent' meal: what do consumers associate with top fast-food brands?

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quantilope's Fast Food Insights Study features an Implicit Multiple Association Test (MAT) to examine the different characteristics, occasions, and motivations that consumers subconsciously associate with leading fast-food brands. Surveying 393 consumers, we tested 46 associations against six brands including Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Domino’s. 

In the Motivational Map below we see that consumers have the most amount of associations with Chick-fil-A (red line) and McDonald's (yellow line). These associations include brand attributes like integrity, quality, convenience, authentic, and trendy. When a brand has a high amount of associations it means that consumers selected them the most when making connections between a brand and the attributes tested. Having a high amount of associations means that Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s are more ingrained in consumers' minds compared to the other brands. This makes sense as the study also found Chick-fil-A and McDonald’s to be the top two favorite brands among consumers (ranked against 13 fast food companies) followed by Subway and Starbucks (tied), Wendy's, and Taco Bell.

While Domino’s attracted the least amount of associations (blue line), we found that the associations consumers did tie to the brand to be the most interesting throughout the study. Domino’s top occasion associations are 'dinner,' 'with family,' and 'hangover'. The clear distinction between moments of family and being hungover shows the brand has two distinct consumer segments that it should monitor and target with specific marketing campaigns.

 

 

Unlike Domino’s, Chick-fil-A is rarely associated with 'hangovers' (despite their Chicken Biscuit being a seemingly perfect cure) or as a 'guilty pleasure' treat. Interestingly, Chick-fil-A is highly associated with 'animal welfare', even as the majority of its menu items are meat-based. 

 

 

Comparing Chick-fil-A and Domino’s Motivation Maps we see that Chick-fil-A over indexes on ‘status’ while Domino’s over indexes on ‘reason,’ ‘joy,’ and ‘curiosity.’ Both brands fall short on ‘trust.’

 

As brands navigate their consumers’ changing reality they should focus marketing efforts on the motivational drivers that consumers associate it with the most. Chick-fil-A embodies traditional ‘all-American’ values, with high associations towards ‘status’, ‘perfection’, ‘strength’, and ‘pride’. In an effort to remain connected with their consumers Chick-fil-A should play into its prideful perceptions.

 

As one of Domino’s top motivational drivers is “Joy,” the brand should focus it’s messaging around ‘enjoyment,’ ‘indulgence,’ ‘light-heartedness,’  and ‘excitement’ to drive consumption.

 

Access the full insights dashboard below for a deeper dive into the profiles for each brand including Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, Subway, Taco Bell, Chipotle, and Domino’s. 

Access the full insights dashboard now!

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