Magazine article Marketing

Wimpy

Magazine article Marketing

Wimpy

Article excerpt

The venerable UK burger chain is banking on a restaurant revamp to bolster sales.

Flimsy burgers, gloopy milkshakes, and dated decor: those growing up in the past 30 years may, at some stage, have experienced a tinge of disappointment at being dragged into a Wimpy by their parents.

The brand's halcyon days were in the 70s, when table service was still the norm and UK consumers were yet to be converted to the fast-food ethos of Burger King and McDonald's. Yet, like many classic British brands, it failed to adapt to a changing marketplace.

An appearance last year in Virgin Atlantic's 25th anniversary ad, suggests there is still a residue of fondness for Wimpy, but could equally indicate that consumers increasingly view the brand as a dated relic of 20th-century culture.

Wimpy's central problem is the gulf between what its marketing team says the brand represents - 'The home of fresh-cooked, nutritional meals' - and the hitherto down-at-heel burger joint people see on their high street.

The marketers are raging against the dying of Wimpy's light by focusing on the chain's sit-down eating heritage.

Its South African parent company, Famous Brands, which acquired a 75% stake in the business in 2007, is transforming Wimpy's 160-odd restaurants into US-style diners.

Will UK consumers regain their taste for the Bender in a Bun? We asked Elliot Wilson, managing director at brand consultancy Elmwood London, which includes McCain on its client list, and Stuart Andrews, senior consultant at branding agency Dave, which works for healthy fast-food chain Leon, what would entice them to stop off for a bite. DIAGNOSIS

- Two industry experts on how Wimpy can get back in the burger race

ELLIOT WILSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR, ELMWOOD LONDON

First of all, I must make a confession.

As a veggie, Wimpy has never been on my hotlist of places to eat out. However, a quick shout-out around the office this morning soon demonstrated that a Wimpy burger is a singularly powerful mechanism for triggering recollections of the Saturdays of our younger selves.

A visit to the brand's website reveals that things have moved on. The Wimpy of our childhood has been replaced by an altogether slinkier proposition involving faux-wood flooring, metallic insignia and burgundy banquettes. 'Enjoy every moment', the determined strapline says.

One thought would be to push this diner-style approach further still by beefing up the beefburgers, a la Gourmet Burger Kitchen. At Elmwood, though, we're always keen to help a brand find its 'authentic attitude'.

Wimpy has always leavened its US fast-food offer with a little British moderation. …

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