The breakfast war is raging and it looks like Taco Bell is winning the opening battle for consumer perception over McDonald’s.
McDonald’s general impression with fast food eaters has declined over the past two months – potentially driven by a combination of accusations of wage theft, a more expensive value menu, and uncertainty over the composition of the menu itself. Taco Bell passed it at the end of March.
Since mid-March, when Taco Bell’s breakfast menu ad campaign went into full swing, consumer perception of the two chains have gone in opposite directions. Taco Bell has reached its best perception levels with fast food eaters since last September, and McDonald’s has reached its lowest levels since the end of last November.
McDonald’s has been going through a particularly turbulent period even before Taco Bell debuted its breakfast campaign that took direct aim at Ronald McDonald and in a new iteration, “outdated” Egg McMuffins. Its overhauled “Dollar menu and more,” which raised the prices on a number of items, didn’t go over well; shareholders criticized the amount of items on the menu; and workers at franchises around the country have held protests accusing the company of wage theft.
While there are almost three times as many McDonald’s locations as there are Taco Bells in the U.S., Taco Bell’s irreverent ads, which poke fun directly at McDonald’s by shaking the “breakfast status quo” seem to have helped it surpass McDonalds’ impression scores among to fast food eaters.
McDonald’s and Taco Bell were measured with two of YouGov BrandIndex’s scores: Buzz, which asks respondents "If you've heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”; and Impression, which asks "Do you have a general positive or negative feeling about the brand?" All respondents were age 18 and over, and have eaten fast food at least once in the past six months.
YouGov BrandIndex’s Buzz and Impression scores range from 100 to -100 and compiled by subtracting negative feedback from positive. A zero score means equal positive and negative feedback.
The Buzz chart for McDonald’s and Taco Bell looks like a fork in the road beginning in mid-March: going one way and up is Taco Bell, moving from 11 to the present 15. Going the other way and down is McDonald’s, descending from 11 to 9.
McDonald’s Impression score slid from 27 on February 1st down to 19 on April 4th, making a slight upturn to 20 the next day, possibly in reaction to their Facebook response to Taco Bell of posting Ronald McDonald petting a Chihuahua. Taco Bell’s Impression score has remained steady during this time, currently sitting at 24.