The Burger King Approach

Morgan Spurlock released “Super Size Me” in 2004. If you haven’t seen it yet, I’ll ask you to skip a few paragraphs as I am going to spoil the main idea. He went 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s. If a cashier asked him if he wanted to Super Size he had to say yes. Ironically, that happened more often in Texas than any other state. We really like things bigger here.

He gained close to 30 pounds in a month and was on the road to some serious health problems. Of course, as documentaries go, he talked about health, business practices, and other issues along the way. McDonald’s took the brunt of the blowback, but the entire fast food industry took it in the teeth for how unhealthy they were.

As the film gained popularity, consumers began to demand better. Part of it was about transparency. We want to know what we are eating. We want calorie counts and nutritional information at the ready. Then, consumers wanted more choices. So, McDonald’s and other fast food places offered alternatives like salads and fruits as side dishes. McDonald’s also stopped the super size gimmick.

Most everyone followed suit. Everyone was on the health kick. McDonald’s is still not a terrific meal, but you can walk out of there feeling a little better about your health choices. Everyone got on the health kick except Burger King. In 2006, they released “BK Stackers”. They had as many as three patties along with bacon. If they had used two Krispy Kreme donuts as buns they would have gone full Luther Vandross. The menu item was discontinued in 2013.

The concept seemed counterintuitive at first. Everyone wanted healthy food. What in the hell were they doing serving a coronary on a plate? The logic was simple. They weren’t going to outhealthy McDonald’s or anyone else. So why not go the other direction. Any time there is a trend there are always people that want to buck that trend. So, Burger King set themselves up to corner that market.

We see fewer and fewer Burger Kings around these days. The item was discontinued in 2013. Obviously those two facts tell us that wasn’t much of a winning strategy. Yet, we see this strategy used in sports all the time. The whole “Moneyball” phenomenam was based on exploiting inefficiencies in the market. In other words, you can sign players no one else wants for cheaper.

Some football and basketball teams employ strategies no one else in the league is doing. More and more football teams want to throw the ball more. So, some teams run it more because they don’t feel they can keep up with the trend. If you don’t have good post players in basketball then play small ball. I think you get the idea. Essentially you zig when everyone else zags.

This is the best explanation I can come up with for what the administration is doing with the virus. More and more Americans think this is a serious situation. More and more Americans think the administration is acting recklessly. Trump has been caught on tape acknowledging the seriousness of the illness all while downplaying it in public.

Meanwhile, the president tests positive and then continues on as if nothing has ever happened. You have Mike Pence now complaining about plexiglass being installed for the vice presidential debate. The fact that they are still having one is mindboggling. This is the head of the coronavirus task force that is objecting to extra precautions even though he himself has been exposed. In other words, the administration has gone full Burger King on the virus.

It makes some sense when you consider the logic. Democrats and Republican opponents of the president have long been critical of how he and the administration have handled the pandemic. If you change course now then you are admitting you were wrong since January. That’s a death sentence. It’s like giving every other fast food outlet a year or two advantage on the health kick. It’s a losing proposition.

So, keep going the other direction. After all, the MAGA crowd absolutely loves him and they hate masks. They hate restrictions. They hate social distancing. They distrust science. After all, they saw a YouTube video that says it’s all fake news anyway. The last thing you want to do is tell those people you were full of crap the whole time.

The problem with the Burger King plan is two-fold. First, it doesn’t work in the long-term. People figure it out. The fact that Burger King is still in business is a matter of luck. They are still shunning the whole health food kick. Think about any Burger King near you. Are there ever any cars in the parking lot?

Secondly, market shares work differently than elections. You don’t need 50 percent plus one for your business to work. You just need a dedicated following. That’s how the Fox News and OAN crowd succeed. They don’t need a majority. They just need a dedicated minority. So, Tucker Carlos and Sean Hannity can say just about any stupid thing they want. As long as 10 to 20 percent of the population likes it they are golden.

You can’t win elections that way. 2016 was an anomaly in so many ways. You had two candidates no one liked. You had narrowly close races in several key states that all magically went Trump’s way. You also had a little help from a powerful adversary. You had the Comey announcement days before the election. Everything went Trump’s way.

Trump could have pivoted. He could have broadened his appeal from day one to appeal to the majority. Instead he went Burger King. He went crazier and more deranged with each passing year. Some people lap that stuff up. They are the same folks that bought the BK Stack and asked for all the patties they could load on that thing. They just wanted to see your reaction to their culinary montrosity. It’s the sordid dark side of “owning the libs”. It turns into a self-own. Sure, you get to see a collective reaction, but you are also the one that gets to digest all that crap. So, continue to go Burger King if you wish. Your business is going down the tubes just like their’s has.

Author: sbarzilla

I have written three books about baseball including The Hall of Fame Index. I also write for You can follow me on twitter @sbarzilla.

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