The Artisan Burger Lesson About Marketing

My mother has always had a special appreciation for hamburgers from McDonald’s. For her, the specific taste of a Big Mac reminds her of some of her favorite memories: moving to the United States, watching her children grow up, feeling “American.” She didn’t eat them very often and the onset of diabetes made the treat even more seldom. So when she decided to visit me and my sister in Portland, the first thing she asked when we picked her up at the airport was if we could stop by McDonald’s to get a hamburger. However, we wanted to take her some place nicer, something she couldn’t get at home, and with better quality food. After throwing out ideas for a few minutes, we decided to take her to the Matchbox Lounge.

I was looking forward to introducing my mom to an artisan burger since she rarely tries new restaurants or food, especially any food that isn’t Chinese. When we got the restaurant, we ordered her the signature, award-winning burger. It featured gourmet quality local beef, pancetta, manchego cheese, and aioli. When she took a bite of this mouthwatering dish, she looked disappointed. She said “It isn’t like McDonald’s.” We were shocked: how could anyone prefer a mass produced fast food hamburger over a fresh artisan burger? The answer was that she wasn’t looking to try a new hamburger. She wanted to have something familiar and comforting. She had a specific need that no other burger could fufill.

The easiest type of customer to attract is the one that is dissatisfied with something. The owner of an old, unreliable vehicle is a much better sales prospect than someone who loves his or her car. A hungry person is more likely to go to a restaurant than someone who just ate. Most people wouldn’t even consider the second person as someone who was in the market. One of the easiest ways to gain new customers is to target ones who are actually looking for something or who are unhappy with what they currently have. That only seems natural: catering to a natural interest or curiosity or need. It doesn’t matter if the new product actually contains new, superior features or is more efficient: the customer has to believe that the current one they have is not solving their problem. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense to spend your resources on marketing to those who had a need rather than a general audience who might or might not have one at all? If you want to target a wider audience, you’ll have to convince more people that what they currently have is not satisfactory.

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