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Fast Food Takes Broader Marketing Approach, Going Beyond Millennial Males

It’s long been acknowledged that young men are the most loyal, frequent customers of fast food eateries. Someone’s been buying those double cheeseburgers and frowned-upon super-sized meals and most of them aren’t the figure-conscious girls.

And quite naturally, young men have been the marketing target of quick-service restaurants for a long time now. However, since the restaurant industry has been hit hard by the economic downturn, a lot of them, like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s, have not been contented in aiming for the Millennial males anymore, and are now intent on targeting a much broader market.

“Because of what’s happening in the economy and the way it affected the employment prospects of young people, marketers are compelled to cast a bigger net than they did in the past,” according to Eric Giandelone, director of foodservice research at market research firm Mintel. Fast food companies are now targeting a wider market in their nationwide advertising, particularly TV creative, so as to reach as many people as possible—of different types—and increase sales.

“It’s not quite safe to narrow down the focus when talking about customer targets,” said Dennis Lombardi, vice president for food service strategies of WD Partners, a customer experience consulting group. “Take McDonald’s for example. The fast food giant has been taking a broader audience approach for years now, and I guess that’s the reason why they’re leading in terms of burger category performance.“

McDonald’s prides itself as “everyone’s food and drink destination,” said one of its spokespersons. They have been utilizing a variety of media to appeal to everyone, most especially to mothers, after having found out that most of their market are the Gen X consumers—35 to 46 years of age, born from 1965 to 1976—those that are most likely to own young families. In their bid to charm mothers, they updated their Happy Meals and tweaked their core menu in quality menu folders to give it a healthier impression.

Burger King has largely been targeting the younger audience over the years, particularly men, by using their King mascot and other eccentric creative. But they retired the King this year, and its new agency, McGarryBowen, have come up with new product-focused ads which essentially appeals to a wider audience.

But this approach to target a broader market does not, of course, take out the millennials from the list. “The Millennials may have a high unemployment rate at this point, but they are still considered to be a veritable growing market, a group who insists on doing what they yearn to do,” said Technomic’s director of consumer research Sara Monnette. “While other generations would say that they will stop going to restaurants to save their money, Millennials would still go out and dine, but would choose to purchase the less expensive menu items in elegant menu folders, like value menus or dollar discounts.”

“Fast food restaurants will continue to attract their core users, which are the younger people,” said Giandelone. “But the idea is that they are right now exerting all efforts to attract the others as well.”