The Nugget Story


Understanding customer demand underpins the success of any business. To quote the O’Jays, ‘you’ve got to give the people, give the people what they want’, and in late 2017, Burger King did just that. Burger King announced that it would start serving Spicy Chicken Nuggets for the first time. Now, in and of itself, this might not seem particularly newsworthy, but it was the latest move in an on-going battle that has seen the world’s biggest fast-food chains openly attack one another and revealed Burger King’s ability to understand customer demand and take advantage of their needs.


The war has seen each company involved take shots at the others, but Burger King’s strategy has been different to that of its competitors. Their focus has been on monitoring the demand for products, particularly those discontinued by their rivals, and using them as a means of attracting support, social media attention, and a way to steal customers away from their rivals.


In early 2017, Wendy’s decided to remove Spicy Chicken Nuggets from their menu. The move upset some of their customers and although it is clear that the item had not been a best-seller, it was much loved by a select, and very vocal, few. Wendy’s strategy for gaining customers has been to focus on value meals. Offering cheap deals like their ‘4 for $4’ has helped them to undercut many of their rivals and seen their sales and profits increase, but those meal deals didn’t stop the demand for nuggets.


Now, to put the love of Wendy’s nuggets in context, it is worth remembering that earlier in the year a tweet about Wendy’s nuggets had broken the Twitter retweet record. Carter Wilkinson’s tweet about free nuggets for a year saw the Nevada teen get over 3.7 million retweets, eclipsing Ellen DeGeneres’ previous record of 3.4 million. Just let that sink in for a second.  A tweet about Wendy’s nuggets is the most retweeted thought of all time…


The Burger King Response


It’s hard to ignore that kind of popularity, and Burger King noticed the number of requests that Wendy’s was getting to bring back its Spicy Chicken Nuggets and decided to step in to fill the void. In October, it announced that it would be launching its own Spicy Chicken Nuggets, and, what’s more, it took the opportunity to take as many shots as possible at Wendy’s.



Certain locations offered free nuggets to customers named Wendy, whilst Burger King decided to gain further attention by promoting tweets of customers who had been asking Wendy’s to bring back the nuggets.



Understanding What Your Customers Want


In an interview with Business Insider, the president of Burger King, Alex Macedo (yes, it does seem like he’s working for the wrong fast-food chain), spoken openly about how Burger King kept an eye on what customers were asking for and tried to respond to demand, including the demand for the products of its competitors.


There were a couple competitors out there that did spicy nuggets, and all of a sudden, one or two of these competitors decided to eliminate the product. People were craving this spicy nugget. They wanted spicy nuggets. There’s a need out there, and we have a LTO (limited time offering). We want to take advantage of this opportunity before anyone else does. So, we’re going straight to the point.

Now, even if you aren’t in the fast-food industry, there are lessons that can be learned from the Burger King example. Every company can benefit from keeping a close eye on their environment and having a real understanding of what their customers want and what is important to them.


Now the real question is, do you have the means with which to properly gauge your customers’ needs? Conventional social media can be very useful, but for most brands, it doesn’t create the kind of conversation that is necessary to inform real business decisions. If you can start that conversation, there is every chance that your next product or improvement will be a lot easier to identify and implement.


What initiatives are you running to understand customer demand? How are you engaging with your customers? How are you turning customer feedback into improvements in your products and services. Are you adapting to their needs?


We’ve previously spoken about how Starbucks has gone above and beyond in its efforts to bring its customers into its conversations about improvement and innovation. The results can be incredible if you actively engage with your audience, and their input and feedback can play a central role in your business planning and innovation roadmap.

Burger King’s attention the needs of its customers has not only helped them to steal customers away from Wendy’, but they’ve also been able to create the image of a company that listens to its customers. That matters. Their engagement on social media skyrocketed and they turned a small win into a huge advertising victory.


Does your company understand exactly what your customers want? Really listening and engaging with your customers can radically transform your business and allow you to launch products and services when you know that they are already in high demand. You can spend time, money, and other resources trying to research your next big thing or improvement, but you might just be missing out on.