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.

1 comment:

ForrestBloede said...

A clearer relationship to the defined SEM's could be written, but you have chosen a challenging brand with Whataburger (small media/low marketing budget).