Mohamed Salim, Head of Strategy, Media at dentsu Malaysia

3 ways for QSR brands to remain competitive according to dentsu's Head of Strategy, Media

Maintaining the balance between short-term sales and long-term brand building remains.

From mass adoption of delivery services to engaging consumers through brand collaborations, 2024 has seen a mix of what QSRs will do to remain ahead.

With different brands more than willing to dive into trends, how brands keep consumers interested is what Sonya David, Head of Strategy, Media at dentsu Singapore and Mohamed Salim, Head of Strategy, Media at dentsu Malaysia will discuss in their speaking session at the upcoming QSR Media Asia Tabsquare Conference & Awards 2024.

Ahead of the event, QSR Media talked to Mohamed about his thoughts on some of the recent trends and challenges in the industry and what it takes to stay ahead.

QSR Media: What are some of the interesting trends you've noticed in the past year that QSR leaders should keep an eye out for?

Mohamed: Post-COVID-19, with the critical mass adoption of delivery services, competition has become quite asymmetric. Every brand out there from QSRs to mid and high-end full-service restaurants to small mamak kitchens are readily available for home consumption at the click of a button. Consumer choices have expanded and expectations have surged. As a result, we saw a lot of product and marketing-led innovations in the category.

To capture the appetite of consumers overloaded with choice, we have seen major brands increasingly tapping into popular entertainment/gaming IPs. (Eg KFC with Zelda and PUBG, Pizza Hut with Genshin Impact, TMNT & Attack on Titan)

Constant collaborations with creators have become commonplace. (Eg McDonalds with FazeClan, KFC with Pestle & Mortar etc)

Influencer and social-led promo tactics have become table stakes for always-on communication.

What has been your top challenge for the year?

Q4 of 2023 brought in new challenges with the Israel-Palestine conflict. Emotionally charged boycott calls have put the major multinational QSR brands at an unexpected crossroads of how to respond responsibly. We have seen campaigns being completely paused, messages toned down from frivolous, exciting and humorous to basic product narratives. There is no right fit solution and we are monitoring on a weekly basis and tweaking our strategy and tactics in an agile always-on manner.

How do you think QSRs could maintain their competitive advantage in a quickly changing landscape?

It’s still a battle of maintaining that fine balance of short-term sales to long-term brand building. This might seem quite trite, but I think this trifecta is key to keeping a brand’s advantage in the category.

From a brand communications perspective, be interesting and fresh, for example through limited-time products, IP collaborations, to give the medium & light users a reason to pay attention and consider.

From a product perspective, uphold the quality of the food and don’t compromise, but optimise, on the tangible experience of the brand in-store and online.

From a business perspective, it’s all about cost control. With an ongoing cost-of-living crisis, success as a profitable business is a tightrope walk of ensuring the costs are in control and not spiralling into price increases.

What specific insights do you want to leave the audience in your speaking/panel session?

As a category, we do need to move at the speed of culture but do it empathetically, thoughtfully and interestingly. The media canvas to communicate through is endless. The key is to adhere to the fundamental investment principles of reach, relevance, and reaction. Maintain that balance of base awareness at a secure level while constantly trying new innovative breakthroughs to gain attention.

For more information about the QSR Media Asia Tabsquare Conference & Awards 2024, please click this link here.

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