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Opening Shots Fired In Breakfast War Between McDonald's And Taco Bell

LOS ANGELES, April 2, 2014 () – The first shots in the breakfast war between McDonald’s and Taco Bell have been fired, and both are using different strategies to try and win.

Taco Bell, which officially expanded its breakfast menu across the U.S. on March 27, is using a direct approach. The company recently launched a TV ad gathering 25 men named Ronald McDonald who introduce themselves and express their love for Taco Bell’s new breakfast items.

McDonald’s is using a more subtle approach. The burger chain posted a picture on Twitter showing the Ronald McDonald mascot crouching down to pet a Chihuahua (Taco Bell’s former longtime mascot) with the words: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” And if that wasn’t enough to entice the consumer, McDonald’s announced that it would be offering a free small cup of its McCafe coffee from March 31-April 13 during breakfast hours.

As a consumer, which approach is better? McDonald’s—not for the wittiest ad, but for its decision to offer free coffee, which does two things: 1) It will entice both new and current morning customers, both of whom will likely decide to buy an additional breakfast item or two to accompany their free coffee, and 2) it takes all the momentum away from Taco Bell’s launch. Next week when I think about breakfast, McDonald’s is on my mind, not Taco Bell.

While Taco Bell’s ad is witty, it does nothing to draw in a customer base that it’s never really tapped into before. It would’ve been smarter to entice this base by offering one of its new breakfast items for free.

McDonald’s wins this round.

Nevin Barich is the Food and Beverage Analyst for Industry Intelligence. Email him here or follow him on Twitter here.

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