Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Whataburger Experience

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, I have always been biased towards Whataburger for my choice of fast food. Every time I see a commercial or hear “What a burger!” I am taken back to my hometown and memories of hitting up our nearby Whataburger. Of course, there is a Whataburger located on almost every major street in Corpus Christi so they were always a convenient choice.

While watching Whataburger’s commercials, I have noticed their attempts to appeal to the emotional, sensory, and relational strategic experiential models (SEMs). They have always tried to illustrate the emotional experience by playing off the “at home” feel and “mom and pop start up” business. I think they have done well with this approach by using commercials that show their early stages of becoming a business. Some commercials will display black and white pictures of the first Whataburger stand in Corpus Christi and show how they have succeeded to become a fast food chain. Whataburger also uses a “Texas proud” and “Texas grown” approach to appeal to the emotional experience. They know that many of their customers were born and raised in Texas and want to support a company that shares the same roots. When focusing on the sensory experience, Whataburger constantly shows large images of their hamburgers and other menu items during their commercials and advertising avenues. The large images draw attention by advertising their fresh ingredients and listing the vegetables and condiments used to make their menu items. By listing, “fresh lettuce, four pickles, diced onions, three tomatoes, 100% pure-American beef, on a five-inch toasted bun, hot, fresh, and made to order, just like you like it,” the customer is drawn in by the visual and auditory description. Whataburger has also begun to use the sales pitch of having “over 36,864 ways to eat a Whataburger” to continue to appeal to the sensory experience that potential customers are looking to have. Whataburger also tries to appeal to the relational experience by attracting audiences of friends, families, and co-workers. Often in Whataburger’s advertisements, a customer will be seen eating a menu item with friends or family. Whataburger tries to create an atmosphere for kids to hang out after school or families to visit for a weekend getaway. They use these attractions in attempt to better relate to their potential customers because they know that most of their consumers will fit into a category that wants to please a peer or family member.

Whataburger uses a visual and verbal identity in their name by playing on the words “what a burger.” The name gives the customer a visual and verbal message of how great the hamburger tastes. Whataburger also utilizes their website to act as a communication tool between the company and its customers. A customer can find the nearest location, decide what he wants to eat by looking at the menu, inquire about a donation for his upcoming volunteer event, purchase apparel, look up some of the restaurant’s history, and even visit the Whatakids section. Whataburger also uses their people as a touching point to contribute to the customer’s experience. Their employees are referred to as “family members” and are trained to be successful. Although Whataburger does a great job with their name as a visual and verbal identity, they do not seem to have enough product presence in comparison to its competitors. Because they do not yet compete nationally, many of Whataburger’s competitors do a better job of presenting their product to the masses rather than focusing on local customers. Similar to the lack of national presence, Whataburger also struggles to communicate with their advertising and public relations to reach a larger audience. Although they might not benefit from a magalog, Whataburger could try using annual reports or newsletters to communicate to their current customers and reach new ones by sharing their current successes.

Describing Whataburger’s touching points was challenging since they are not yet a thriving national chain. Successful in Texas and a few other states, Whataburger has a lot to learn from its competitors. They also have many growth opportunities and seem to have a bright future ahead of them. Growing up in Corpus Christi has definitely biased my opinions towards Whataburger. They have always been my first choice when considering a fast food burger joint, and they will probably continue to be my first choice. I know that I have seen their advertisements on countless occasions, but I know that they still have work to do in regards to reaching out to their customers in newer territories.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Paradox of Choices

Barry Schwarz brings up many interesting points about consumer decision making. From a consumer’s perspective, I was able to think about many of my own shopping behaviors and relate them to his ideas. At first glance, the idea of having more items to choose from sounds like a great plan. The freedom that Schwarz brings up seems exactly what consumers think they are looking for while shopping. Unfortunately, many consumers find this freedom overwhelming and often return home empty-handed after a day of shopping. There have been numerous times that I make a trip to a shopping center or mall looking for clothing and return home with nothing because I could not quite seem to find what I was looking for. Schwarz’s idea seems accurate. Consumers have trouble making decisions because they simply cannot decide with all of these choices. After all, more is less.

The “official dogma” that Schwarz mentions seems to be a precise explanation of present day shoppers. At one time, we were dissatisfied because we did not have enough to choose from. However, now we seem to have too much to choose from. We thought that we could “maximize our welfare by maximizing our freedom.” Looking at consumer behavior, this has not been the case. We have always had the freedom to choose what we would like to buy. Increasing the number of choices has only led us to feel dissatisfied with what we finally choose to take home. Schwarz’s fishbowl idea seems unnecessary at first. Of course, no one likes the thought of limitations or boundaries, especially in buying behaviors. Although consumers might not want limitations, they cannot seem to handle limitless options.

The examples Schwarz gives are common problems that consumers face with choices. I have actually found myself wanting a phone that is less complicated. I have even found myself wanting a computer that is more user-friendly, and not so high-tech. Schwarz is right; there are no more easy choices to just choose the simplest option. Technology has enabled our favorite brands to provide us with more choices in hopes that we will find exactly what we are looking for. The truth is we do not all know exactly what we are looking for. The plethora of choices has actually made it more difficult to make a decision that we can leave satisfied with. His other example of the doctor giving a patient the benefits and risks of two options is also true for many people. Sometimes we just want to be told what to do or, in some cases, told what to buy which is probably why many consumers listen to commercials and use coupons. Many consumers need some suggestions or advice on what to purchase, and even on what they really want.

Experiencing cognitive dissonance is also an effect of having so many choices. Now consumers are going home and questioning whether they bought what they really wanted. Having so many options makes more than one item appealing, so you are never quite sure if you purchased what you intended to buy. As Schwarz mentions, this liberation that we expected to find in having more choices actually causes us to have more regret and dissatisfaction at the end of the day. The opportunity costs become greater because consumers begin to consider all of the products or brands that they might be missing out on. Now each of these alternatives subtract from the satisfaction after the consumer has made her final decision.

The final idea presented by Schwarz that I feel is relevant is the fact that consumer’s expectations have increased because there are now more choices. Consumers expect to arrive at their home satisfied and ultimately end up blaming themselves when they experience buyer’s remorse. By encouraging consumers to have low expectations, Schwarz is attempting to bring consumers to the reality that in decision making more is less.

Monday, September 10, 2007

7-Eleven &

When comparing 7-Eleven and, both CEOs do a remarkable job of understanding customer insights. While Jeff Bezos uses his goofy attitude, Jim Keyes capitalizes on popular trends to put his customer’s needs first. In “Mighty Amazon,” Jeff Bezos is portrayed as a silly guy while at his photo shoot. Jumping on a trampoline and posing for a picture, Bezos makes jokes and talks with the photographer. It appears that Bezos is a personable guy who would do anything to satisfy others, especially his customers. In other instances, Bezos is portrayed as “all business” with his direct reports. Although Bezos is firm with his employees, he uses technology to make sure that his customers are happy and receive their products in a timely manner. When asked about customer service, “Bezos isn’t interested in a qualitative answer.” Because Bezos has built his business on convenience, “he wants to know average customer contacts per order, average time per contact, the breakdown of e-mail vs. telephone contacts, and the total cost to the company of each.” Bezos has all of his warehouses computerized so that employees can transfer orders as quickly as possible. Bezos has also welcomed competitors so that Amazon “doesn’t have to advertise that its prices are lower because consumers themselves can now compare prices.” Bezos took two things, books and the Internet, and combined them by taking an insight and creating a convenient service for his consumers.

7-Eleven is a prime example of a company that values their customer insights. This is evident when you look at their birth in the convenience store industry. Joe C. Thompson realized the demand for convenience and chose to create “a chain of stores that would stay open from 7 am to 11 pm.” Not every company will have a pot of macadamia-nut coffee for a single customer that stops in like one of Keyes’s store managers does at a 7-Eleven in San Francisco. Keyes seems to do a great job in leading by example and letting his employees know his expectations of customer service. With the use of their NEC handhelds, 7-Eleven employees make sure that products low in stock are on the shelf the following morning. Similar to Amazon, Keyes has transformed 7-Eleven “from having no idea what we were selling to predicting what customers want even before they know it,” according to Podeschi, 7-Eleven’s senior vice president for merchandising. 7-Eleven utilizes the insights from its customers by searching for trends and then creating a product to complement the trend. An example of this can be seen by looking at the sales of cleaning wipes. Employees noticed that cleaning wipes were increasing quickly so they brainstormed to come up with a product they could sell to maximize on the cleaning wipe phenomenon. 7-Eleven also took their customer insights and turned them into an experience for the customer when they created Road Kill gummy candy. Employees knew that kids liked “things that are over-the-top gross” so they took that insight and created Road Kill gummies to please their young clientele. Keyes was also one of the early members to create a credit card reader for his customer’s convenience at the gas pump. While some argued that these card readers would decrease sales because customers would not purchase impulse items, Keyes found an increase in sales as 7-Eleven began to have more female customers because they did not want to leave their kids to pay inside.

As a customer of both and 7-Eleven, I feel better knowing that the CEOs of both companies truly care about their consumers. Keyes has been able to spot new fads and trends amongst his customers and transform them into new products or services while Bezos capitalized on convenience for his consumers. Keyes’s employees appear happier because they can individualize their stores and offer different products to their specific clientele, and Bezos’s workers could possibly face sacrificing customer service for fear of displeasing their boss. Still, both companies have managed to continue to maximize the insights of their customers.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Hi, there! :)