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Coffee Wars: Starbuck versus McDonald's

Coffee Wars: Starbuck versus McDonald's

An image comparing the globalization of Starbucks versus McDonald's (photo by Creative Commons user Marc van derChijs)

Chicago Tribune

McDonald’s, Starbucks Take Coffee War to National Ad Battlefield

CHICAGO _ On Tuesday, McDonald’s begins a massive advertising blitz to persuade customers to associate its famous “Mc” prefix with fancy coffee. Meanwhile, coffee king Starbucks has launched its own ad assault.

McDonald’s foray into specialty coffee _ caramel cappuccinos and the like _ is its biggest product launch since breakfast in the 1970s. The coffee initiative is a direct threat to the troubled Starbucks, though it’s also an expensive risk for the fast-food giant.

McDonald’s has been gradually rolling out specialty coffee since late 2006. Now, with the drinks being sold in 70 percent of its nearly 14,000 U.S. restaurants, McDonald’s is moving from regional to full-bore national advertising.

The first spots focus on mocha and iced coffee, the latter a priority as the weather warms up. The ads highlight the name McDonald’s has chosen for its coffee lineup: McCafe. “We are establishing the brand of McCafe,” said Neil Golden, McDonald’s chief U.S. marketing officer.

In one TV ad, words such as “chore” and “rinse” are given accent marks on the “e” so they rhyme with McCafe. That spot ends with the phrase, “McCafe your day.”

Golden wouldn’t say how much McDonald’s is spending on the ad program, other than it would be commensurate with McCafe’s importance. McDonald’s certainly has a lot to spend: Last year, it shelled out $820 million for U.S. advertising, more than double that of No. 2 fast-food advertiser Subway, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

On Sunday, Starbucks unveiled its own new marketing offensive with a full-page ad in The New York Times. Starbucks is using newspapers and magazines to drive home a message of quality.

“There is a danger of coffee becoming commoditized to where it’s all about the easiest access and the cheapest price point,” said Terry Davenport, Starbucks’ chief marketing officer. Indeed, one of Starbucks’ new ads reads: “Beware of a cheaper cup of coffee. It comes with a price.”