February 9, 2023
Why In-N-Out Burger is So Loved
7 MIN READ

The rise in candy from around the world reflects people's growing adventurous palates and the role of social media in introducing new foods globally.

History has significantly influenced what various cultures consider beautiful. Major economic and political events, along with shifts in the cultural zeitgeist, have all played a crucial part in shaping ideal beauty standards.

For instance, colonialism radically shifted beauty ideals in many Asian and African countries. Features that didn’t fit with Eurocentric beauty ideals, like deeper skin tones, smaller eye shapes and textured hair, were deemed undesirable, introducing a social hierarchy that is still being unraveled today.

In modern society, the rise of the Internet and social media has been a transformative force in shaping beauty standards. Asian beauty techniques and products have spread to the West and entered the mainstream, while Western influencer and celebrity culture has permeated globally. The conversation around beauty has become increasingly diverse and inclusive, celebrating a wider range of features and styles.

These evolving perspectives on beauty have led to the emergence of new practices, which are prominently reflected in modern advertising. Using our AI-powered Ad Evaluation App, we analyzed beauty advertisements from the 1990s and 2000s by the same brands across five different markets - the US, China, India, Japan, and Brazil. Our goal was to observe their transformation over time and identify any movements between these markets.

Brazil

Previous Archetypes and Values: Sensual, Intimate, Passionate

New Archetypes and Values: Sensual, Intimate, Passionate, Inspiration, Glamorous

Brazil boasts one of the world’s most diverse cultures, but its beauty standards haven't always reflected that. L’Oreal’s earlier ads featured a light-skinned American model, which is not representative of the country's diversity. While the preferences for glamour and sensuality have remained central, modern ads now showcase a nuanced version of beauty, highlighting different ethnicities and genders. This bolder approach contrasts with the seemingly self-effacing ad of the past, redefining and embracing what beauty looks like in Brazil.

China

Previous Archetypes and Values: Supportive, Down-to-Earth

New Archetypes and Values:  Strong, Brave, Determined

Estee Lauder's 2002 ad in China features Caucasian model Hilary Rhoda as the ambassador, dubbed in Mandarin. This ad may have been a reflection of the period's idealization of foreign beauty and a lack of strong Chinese identity in the beauty industry at the time. More than two decades later, the 2024 ad we analyzed showcases Zhang Weili, a professional MMA fighter, training in a boxing ring. This shift indicates a move away from the consumption of imported beauty standards towards the creation of a homegrown ideal. The new standard of beauty emphasizes strength and health, qualities that Chinese consumers admire and aspire to, and see in themselves.

India

Previous Archetypes and Values:  Powerful, Charismatic, Visionary

New Archetype and Values: Playful, Carefree, Fun-Loving, Glamorous

The two L’Oreal India advertisements featuring long-time brand ambassador Aishwarya Rai illustrate a shift in marketing strategy over the last decade. In the earlier ad, Aishwarya embodies the quintessential beautiful Indian woman, dressed-up and perfectly coiffed. This portrayal emphasizes an idealized and somewhat unattainable standard of beauty.The updated ad presents a more casual and relatable image of the actress, which suggests an attitudinal shift among Indian consumers. While she remains glamorous, the ad focuses on portraying her in a more accessible light, thus positioning her as someone who wants to help other women feel beautiful too.

Japan

Previous Archetypes and Values: Innocent, Humble, Optimistic

New Archetypes and Values: Warm, Compassionate, Generous, Nurturing, Inspirational

Shiseido's ads reflect the evolving reality of Japanese women over the past 30 years. The 1992 ad depicts a woman at home, where women typically spent most of their time. The modern ad, however, shows Japanese celebrity Hiromi Nagasaku in various aspects of her life—at work and with her family—showcasing the joy she feels. She appears more confident and assertive, reflecting contemporary Japanese views on beauty. In the past, beauty was associated with cleanliness, but now it encompasses a woman living her life fully and enjoying every moment, illustrating that beauty comes from within rather than just external appearances.

USA

Previous Archetypes and Values: Expressive, Imaginative, Sensuality

New Archetypes and Values:  Playful, Fun-loving, Glamorous, Entertaining

Both Maybelline ads share a similar concept, creating a fantasy world that doesn't take itself too seriously. Beauty is meant to be fun, and the 2023 version feels like a modern update of the earlier ad's playful message. The latest ad features the unexpected pairing of Bretman Rock and Martha Stewart, and utilizes both their brand personas. This shift showcases a growing consumer desire for inclusivity and authenticity in advertising, challenging traditional notions of beauty and expanding the idea of who gets to wear makeup.

Our analysis of ads from these five markets reveals three key ways ideas have traveled, highlighting the shift from one-dimensional to multidimensional beauty. The meaning of this shift varies across cultures.

Many modern ads demonstrate a shift in the relationship and power dynamics between beauty brands and consumers. In the past, the beauty industry focused on highlighting imperfections and promoting unattainable standards that could only be achieved through their products. Today, consumers are more empowered and seek brands that affirm their beauty and support them in their journey to become the best version of themselves.

Markets Demostrating this Theme: USA. Brazil, Japan.

Modern beauty ads seem to share a common thread: beauty is about play and passion. It’s meant to be fun and accessible to everyone who wants to take part in it. It's believed that happiness and fulfillment in life radiate outwardly. When you feel content and satisfied, it enhances your external appearance.Brands need to promote the idea that their products are a means to explore, have fun, and express joy, reinforcing where true beauty comes from.

Markets Demostrating this Theme: USA, Brazil, China, Japan, India.

Seeing yourself on screen is more important than ever before. Consumers are demanding to see people who not only look like them but also reflect the unique interpretations of beauty in their respective countries. They want to see individuals who mirror their ideals and lifestyles and with whom they can emotionally connect.

The expectation is for brands to understand them on a far deeper level and cater to their beauty standards, rather than setting the standards for them.

Markets Demostrating this Theme: USA, Brazil, China, Japan.

Candy remains a favorite in ASMR eating videos due to its visual appeal and sound when chewed. Recently, popular candies with crunchy and sludgy sounds have become especially soothing.

Consumers' tastes now favor sharper, tangier flavors. Sour candy offers a refreshing contrast to sweetness and stimulates dopamine release. It is also believed to be a quick antidote for anxiety, as it distracts the brain from negative emotions and focuses it on the tingly sensation in the mouth.

Nostalgia has hit the candy market, with 90s and 00s favorites like Ring Pops, Airheads, and Nerds topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list, indicating consumers’ craving for childhood snacks.

Write to [email protected] to learn about AI-powered market research and the latest consumer trends.

As beauty standards become more inclusive and diverse, it is clear that consumers are driving a transformative shift in media and advertising, seeking representations that are authentic, empowering, and reflective of their true selves.

If you are interested to learn more, sign upfor our product newsletter or reach out to us at [email protected].

We’re launching an updated version of our ad evaluation tool that can analyse any creative formats, from concepts to storyboard, at our September event. Learn more about AI-volution 2024 here.

Brand Insights in Three Sentences: In-N-Out Burger’s brand carries with it a cultural capital that is unmatched in the fast food industry. Consumers appreciate the high standard of consistency and quality provided by the restaurant’s unique operating model, and view the burger chain as a place to treat themselves to a special indulgence. The brand also cultivates a unique Californian image that creates a culture of exclusivity and excitement among their customers, especially since many don’t live close to a location.

On the surface, In-N-Out Burger appears to be like many other fast food chains in the US. It has a drive-thru and a small dining room. Its affordable menu serves a standard selection of burgers, fries, milkshakes, and sodas from the fountain. It’s not the only burger joint to find success in the United States, and definitely not the biggest.

Yet In-N-Out seems to stand apart from its peers. It was recently declared the most popular fast food restaurant in California (its home state), and regularly tops lists of best fast food restaurants in the country. Several famous chefs count themselves among its fans, including Gordon Ramsay and Thomas Keller — the owner and chef of the three Michelin-starred French Laundry. Anthony Bourdain even called it his “favorite restaurant in LA”, high praise for a three-dollar cheeseburger.

Like any restaurant, In-N-Out’s prominent position has plenty to do with the quality and value of their food. The California-based burger chain has a unique operating model, which focuses on delivering fresh ingredients daily and avoids franchising locations so that every restaurant is held to its lofty standards.

In-N-Out also keeps prices down by owning every location, maintaining a limited menu, and buying their ingredients wholesale. All this while paying their employees better than competitors, landing themselves on Glassdoor’s list of best places to work ahead of companies like Microsoft and Lululemon.

However, In-N-Out’s success goes beyond a good burger at a good price. Something about the cheeseburger vendor conveys immense cultural capital and clout. If it’s status among professional chefs and best-of lists isn’t enough to convince you that this is true, In-N-Out is also incredibly overrepresented on social media:

Despite maintaining only a regional presence, In-N-Out Burger absolutely dominates on Instagram, with more than double the posts than any similarly sized chain. It has an even larger footprint on the app than many nationally recognized restaurants like Chik-Fil-A and Wendy’s, and is only outdone by giants like KFC or McDonald’s — a franchise with more than 30 times as many locations as In-N-Out.

So, what can we make of this? What is the In-N-Out experience, and why does it carry so much influence online? Using Sphere’s Customer Experience app, we decided to break down how people enjoy this iconic West Coast eatery with AI-generated data from Twitter. With our results, we hope to provide a few insights into the magic behind this burger’s popularity. Here’s what we found:

Our Customer Experience app found a variety of reactions to In-N-Out Burger, but three stood out from the pack in their representation.

Sharing One’s Satisfaction (39.2%)

It is a credit to any restaurant if people want to share their pleasure with the dining experience. This is more than true at In-N-Out, where nearly 40% of all customer experiences were dedicated to telling Twitter about their positive opinion of the restaurant.

People certainly praise the food and service, but if one thing stands out from this section of customer experiences, it is In-N-Out’s consistency and dependability:

“Over 15 years never have I ever had a bad burger from there”

“I’ve probably made 100+ in n out orders with tons of special modifiers and i have NEVER had an order come out wrong or have something forgotten”

“In-N-Out is good. It’s a lot cheaper than any other burger place. Quality and consistent… You can certainly get a better burger elsewhere but you’ll pay $10+ for it.”

For many consumers, the fast food industry seems to have a reputation for missed orders and unreliable quality. But In-N-Out stands out in this respect — Twitter users hold the restaurant in high regard for its consistent service and quality, especially given the low price point.

The consistent satisfaction that In-N-Out provides is reflected in Sphere’s sentiment analysis of conversations about the vendor:

Self-Indulgence (35.4%)

The love and appreciation for In-N-Out’s quality, affordability, and reliability is undeniable. However, there is also a certain indulgent quality that our AI detected in conversations about the beloved burger establishment.

Users often discuss a meal at In-N-Out Burger as a special occasion. While the context varied from late night snacks to cheat day treats, many felt that these burgers were best enjoyed as pleasurable diversions, rather than regular meals:

“i literally won’t eat at in n out all year but it feels wrong not going after a concert”

“Having the luxury to get In N Out on my cheat days whenever I want is a W”

“First thing I’m doing when I get back to the bay is hitting some In N Out 😩😩”

What’s more, customers with this experience of the restaurant didn’t feel ashamed to eat it alone:

What’s clear is that fans of this iconic fast food brand see In-N-Out as a gift they can give to themselves. While they may not go everyday, the vaunted burger vendor still holds a special place in their hearts as a delicious indulgence.

Complaints (9.7%)

It’s hard to imagine that complaints could bode well for a customer-focused establishment. And while it’s true that a small minority of customers have criticisms of In-N-Out (the fries seem to be a sticking point for some), this customer experience more often revolves around one thing: access.

In-N-Out is a mainstay for burger-lovers in California. However, its 386 nationwide locations only extend as far east as Dallas, Texas. Outside its home state, there is limited availability for In-N-Out in most of America.

The rest of the country still knows and loves the restaurant, though. It is‌ a great accomplishment that a regional restaurant would have national appeal, but it does cause some complaints from fans who aren’t close enough to an In-N-Out location to enjoy it themselves:

“Sad bc I can’t get in n out.”

“‘Big Burger’ is violating my First Amendment rights because there is no In-n-Out where I live. They are, in effect, shadowbanning me by preventing me from exercising my freedom to order from the secret menu!”

“The one thing i miss from before i moved from the western US is In n Out Burger :(“

Even though people have gripes with In-N-Out’s limited availability, in a strange way, these complaints‌ further the cultural prevalence and exclusivity that the brand enjoys. People view the restaurant almost as a must-see vacation destination, or an exclusive locale for eating the best burgers on the west coast. Thrill and Adventure (3.8%) was also highly represented among customer experiences for this exact reason. In-N-Out Burger is an almost mythical right-of-passage — people are thrilled by their first chance to try the legendary sandwich.

In-N-Out’s California image is also vital to this notion of exclusivity and adventure. Our AI found that 80% of customers eat their In-N-Out outdoors, and you only need to look through photos of In-N-Out on Instagram to see how important the sunny, palm tree-laden environment is to customers. Perhaps that’s why the restaurant keeps the iconic palm tree displayed prominently on their cups and outside their locations.

south_east

synthesizing vast data into actionable insights that reflect each market's unique cultural and economic backdrop

south_east

grasping the distinct consumer perspectives that these diverse regions offer

Quilt’s Insights

In-N-Out has cultivated a strong customer experience across the board. Its reliability, quality, and affordability leave customers feeling satisfied. Twitter users like to indulge in an In-N-Out burger and make it a special treat for themselves. And while most of the country doesn’t have access to one of their locations, this helps promote an exclusivity which pervades American culture — especially on Instagram.

However, In-N-Out is expanding eastward to Tennessee over the next few years, marking its first location east of the Mississippi river. As it continues to grow, a new challenge will arrive as In-N-Out works to maintain its quintessential sunny California image.

That said, if the burger chain’s track record shows anything, it is that it values quality, consistency, and professionalism over fast growth. It’ll be hard for the In-N-Out brand to lose it’s grip on American culture as long as it continues its streak of excellence — one which it has already maintained for more than 70 years.

Curated digital profiles:

-Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok (US)

-Weibo and Douyin (China)

Pulled 400 million unique searches to estimate the growth of each segment

Used Quilt.AI’s Sphere language and image capabilities to categorise lifestyle areas into specific segments

Glamour Seekers

These consumers are confident, bold, and comfortable with modern masculinity. They also often turn to social media to express their personal style and interests.

Actionable Insight: Collaborate with high-profile fashion influencers to create vibrant, trend-setting campaigns that resonate with this segment's desire for attention and admiration.

Vanity Vanguards

Highly image-driven, these individuals often seek validation through their appearance and are likely to engage heavily with both grooming and fashion products.

Actionable Insight:Leverage digital marketing strategies that feature before-and-after visuals and testimonials that showcase the transformative power of the products

Conscious Icons

These men aim to be recognized as modern, open-minded, and sensitive – embodying the image of "the woke good guy" in today's society by actively participating in movements related to activism and gender equality.

Actionable Insight:Design marketing campaigns that highlight their participation in these movements, showcasing products that enable them to express and amplify their desired social identities.

Youthful Trendsetters

They value beauty while still maintaining traditional masculine ideals of what it means to be good-looking. These men also tend to seek out methods of maintaining their youthful appearances.

Actionable Insight:Market products that boost physical appeal and suit active lifestyles, and focus on dynamic marketing that highlights masculine elegance.

Trusted Patrons

Despite seeing gender in traditionally binary terms, these men aren’t afraid of behaving in more feminine manners. They own their uniqueness and tend to be deeply loyal to brands that affirm their identity.

Actionable Insight:Focusing on brand narratives that celebrate individuality and personal expression will better engage this segment. Brands can also offer personalized services to maintain their commitment.

Innovation Advocates

As consumers who value knowledge, they embrace technology and innovation that enhances their lives. Wanting to stay ahead of the curve, they prefer brands that offer cutting-edge solutions that reflect their own mentality.

Actionable Insight:Market products to this segment by emphasizing innovation, utility, and exclusivity. Brands can focus on how their products integrate the latest technology and engage these men through intelligent content that speaks to their curiosity.

Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
Visuals illustrated are to bring concepts to life only.
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