To What Do We Attribute Brand Success In The Fast Food Industry?

As reported by Franchise Help, the fast food industry generates revenue of more than $570 billion. In 2015, revenue alone in the United States reached $200 billion. Compare this with a revenue of $6 billion in 1970 and it is evident there has been tremendous growth in the fast food industry.

With over 200,000 fast food restaurant locations in the U.S., it is difficult for a company to carve their own niche and create a truly unique brand.

Amidst stiff competition from up-and-coming brands there stand the staple chains like Taco BellMcDonald’sChipotleBurger King, and Kentucky Fried Chicken — these brands have dominated the fast food industry for decades. There success in locating a target audience, as well as, converting visitors into loyal customers can be attributed to a variety of reasons.


Out of the numerous brand strategies, we will discuss two very specific tactics.

Perfect Choice in Color Scheme

Color psychology plays a critical role in fast food sales affecting: 1) appetite2) brand recall value3) visual stimulia.k.a. attraction.

Take the case of McDonald’s golden arch(yellow and red) logo, Subway’s arrow (green and yellow) logo, or the KFC logo (white and red) featuring ‘Colonel Sanders’.

These brand logos are have been etched into collective consciousness since the inception — by design. Even after these logos have gone through upgrades, target audience members, brand loyalists, and the general public continue to relate with them due to color association.

While the logos of differing fast food franchises vary, color psychology remains the common denominator. In fact, you will find that the logos of many fast food chains share a similar color palette – red, yellow, orange and green.

Red stimulates the brain and controls hunger, appetite, and commands attention. You can easily spot the red logo of a fast food diner from a distance while driving on a freeway or when you go shopping in a mall — it signals to where you can grab a quick bite

Yellow works in a similar manner, being not only bright and visually stimulating, but also triggering emotional values of happiness and friendliness. It eggs customers into trusting a brand and guides them to make a favorable decision on the brand’s behalf.

Therefore red and yellow, or the combination of both, have become almost synonymous in terms of branding in the fast food/restaurant industry.

Even orange, which is a blend of red and yellow, is another appetizing color used in the fast food industry — It is a bright color that visually ‘pops’.

Dunkin Donuts, which primarily serves pastries, make use of orange in their logo to capture the attention of their customers.

Green, the color of prosperity and heavily associated with the environment, has also found its fair share of takers — Two of the most prominent fast food brands that utilize green in their logos are Starbucks and Subway.

Similarly, Applebee’s, Krispy Kreme, and Quizno’s have incorporated green into their logo. This unique choice of color reminds consumers that the food they are about to be served is fresh and healthy — Subway’s slogan is, Eat fresh).

A Unique Consumer Experience

The best fast food franchises are known for providing unique customer experiences, ultimately helping them gain favor among their target market.

Whether their menu is based on an economical price point, quality food, value-added services, friendly staff or a signature menu, all of these factors typically remain consistent.

A case in point would be that of McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal’. A Happy Meal is a child’s meal portion and began as a marketing promotion in 1977 for parents.

The Happy Meal promotion later evolved to feature toys as part of a larger marketing tie-in — television show, film, or toy brand.

Chipotle is another brand with a unique case history. A trendsetter, owner Steve Ells gave customers an upscale dining environment, better food quality, and ditched an inexpensive menu for one with a higher price point with limited options — It sparked a dining style known as ‘fast causal.

Apart from the menu and the price tag, the company made sure that all the ingredients were of top quality and freshly prepared — meaning no freezers!

The company also stressed on beautifying the interiors of their restaurants to give customers an elevated dining experience, a first in the history of the American fast food industry. It took awhile for people to become open to the price tag and select menu items, but over time the switch was made as consumers recognized Chipotle’s unique benefit — fast, healthy food for a premium price!

Let’s talk about Starbucks.

It comes as no surprise that the coffeehouse chain has been the punchline in jokes for their baristas misspelling the names of customers every now and then.

While this may annoy some customers and amuse others, it has fetched plenty of publicity for the company.

It has in effect created a cyclical phenomena.

People go to a Starbucks café and order their favorite brewed beverage only to have the barista spell their names wrong. Irrespective of whether or not the people whose names have been incorrectly spelled, they often share their experiences on social media.

More often than not, the brand loyalist will post an image of their order proudly displaying their incorrectly spelled name to the Twitter-sphere — complete with hashtags and a Starbucks mention. This unique, collective customer experience has helped the franchise gain immense popularity.

Misspelling people’s name may not include a direct user benefit via Starbucks, but it surely creates a unique, though commonly shared experience. In effect, each customer has their own unique set of names to share with fellow brand enthusiasts.

While we have only touched on two of the many factors affecting brand success in the fast food industry, (color scheme and user experience), there remain others. Of the two we’ve covered can you cite any specific examples that have generated brand loyalty within you? Or better yet, have you noticed this effect in other consumer products?

Share your views with us.