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copywriting lesson from a hamburger

Today’s email is brought to you by: Hamburgers.

Here’s why:

I scrolled through social media on my way to see Dave Chappelle last night, and I stumbled upon an interesting meme. I didn’t fact check the meme, so take this with a grain of paprika. But if I was a betting man, I’d bet this meme spoke true.

Here’s the story:

In the 1980s, A&W wanted to compete with McDonald’s. Since one of McDonald’s best-selling burgers was a quarter pounder, A&W tried to make their burger better. And they did what any aspiring competitor would do to the industry leader: They made a bigger burger at a lower cost.

A&W called this bigger, yet cheaper burger a ⅓ pound burger.

Guess what happened…

The ⅓ pound burger failed.


I have a couple of theories. And the meme itself has a theory (which I believe).

Let’s start with the meme’s theory:

According to the meme, the ⅓ pound burger failed because most customers thought a quarter pounder was bigger.

Which brings me to the first point:

For some weird reason, a quarter pounder *does* sound bigger than a ⅓ pound burger. The ⅓ pound burger almost sounds like you’re getting one-third of a burger.

See how important making your writing, and your offers, as simple and as understandable as possible is? This was a multi-million dollar mistake on A&W’s end.

I have a couple of additional theories too on why the ⅓ pound burger failed:

First, since the ⅓ pound burger is cheaper, it reinforces the belief that it’s only one-third of a burger. Folks naturally assume higher priced products are superior to cheaper products, whether or not it’s true.

Second, the quarter pounder was proven. It became part of the lexicon whereas a ⅓ pound burger wasn't.

Sometimes reinventing the wheel (or trying to) isn't as profitable as following a proven system.

As for the last reason?

McDonald's had a stronger brand. In fact, their brand was so strong that I bet Mickey D’s could’ve gotten away with launching a successful ⅓ pound burger whereas A&W failed.

Anyway, I thought it ‘twas an interesting story.

Wanna send your audience interesting—and seemingly unrelated—stories like this that make your wallet fatter? Let’s hop on a quick call to see if partnering makes sense.


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