Steven Bartlett claimed on a recent episode of his Diary of a CEO podcast featuring John Eckburt, CEO of Five Guys, that the fast-food chain was built to become a global business empire without ANY marketing strategy in place.

Five Guys has not only spent money on marketing but has gained generous media attention throughout the years of digital and social media and has grown a cult-like following around the world. A statement such as this can be extremely damaging and misconceived, as it reinforces the perception that marketing is just ‘paid advertising’ and nothing more, which of course we know isn’t true.

In this article, we will be unravelling this claim to prove that in fact, Five Guys have grown to become the best burger fast food chain around the world through the use of their sophisticated marketing strategy.

Five Guy’s: The Five P’s of Marketing

 The proof that Five Guys has considered their marketing strategy to the letter:


“It’s the burger you’d cook for your mum” - John Eckbert CEO of Five Guys.

This is their product narrative!

Quality is one of the main core brand values of the chain with their unique selling point (USP) being their ‘cooked to perfection’ burgers and fries. Their products come from a place of authenticity, with the business started up as a family-run restaurant, featuring transparent open kitchens and a promise to only use the freshest ingredients.

Their true and transparent family value forms the story behind the brand that is communicated consistently. Without looking far, the ‘About Us’ page on their website (which is also incidentally a massive marketing undertaking), you can see their brand narrative shines through in each of their three main values – family, freshness and customisation.


Although people may say that Five Guys is overpriced as opposed to other fast-food brands, you’re investing in the price of freshness and quality. The comparison against one of their biggest rivals McDonald’s, where their prices are viewed as cheap, Five Guys strategy was not for their customers to indulge as frequently but to perceive spending the money on a ‘treat’. It is said the average person goes to Mcdonald's up to 8x per year, whilst only going to Five Guys 2x per year – implying a Five Guys is seen more as a treat than a regular option.


Five Guys is a great example of marketing done brilliantly by being strategic and mindful with their budget ensuring they invest in the right tactics for the brand and customer.

Five Guys grew to a global scale organically through word-of-mouth due to their mouth-watering products when they started up in 1986, it was “THE place to get a fresh, juicy burger” which put them in good stead for growth. In 2003, the overwhelming success of the brand offering franchise opportunities hit national news and articles in trade publications.

As years went on, Five Guys started to feature in food blogs around the internet with how delicious the food was in America, which led to an influx of awareness in the UK. Their promotional strategy developed over time with the growth of the internet and social media, which allowed Five Guys to create a thorough tactical delivery plan based on customer experience (UX) and a user-generated content strategy.

Five Guys have become extremely recognisable through their branding in every one of their restaurants, using their red and white colour tones to create that vintage American style and classic brown paper bags to package their food. Their branding is consistent throughout every touch point – from their restaurants, packaging and socials – creating a memorable customer experience. They also leverage user-generated content by using Instagram to ask customers to photograph their Five Guys orders and share them using #fiveguysuk.

When visiting a restaurant, the walls are plastered with media coverage and PR articles rewarding the success of the business. Five Guys absolutely spends the majority of its time focusing on tactical delivery by getting in front of the media. Their key messages are at the forefront of every marketing tactic, whilst also being very strict in following their guiding principles and growth strategy.


Five Guys arrived in the UK in 2013, opening their first ever restaurant in Covent Garden, London, by starting with absolutely no promotion of the opening. John Eckburt in the podcast talked about how they were unsure anyone would turn up for their initial opening. Fortunately, from the success of their products and user generated content, queues were shortly forming around the building for the first two years of business.

Now, over 30 years after the first Five Guys opened, they have successfully grown as a business with their stores in just under 2,000 locations worldwide. Five Guys continues to receive massive media attention and has grown masses, becoming extremely recognisable around the world.


Through the use of their user generated content strategy via social media, they encourage customers get involved by tagging and sharing their food online. This underpins the fact Five Guys makes sure they stay well connected with their audience through social channels.

With freshness and customisation as two of their core values, the customer is absolutely at the forefront of their marketing strategy. The promise to only hire the best burger chef lovers in all of their restaurants, maintains a high-quality standard of the food. They have chosen to invest budget into their product and staff to serve each customer's needs with only the best, setting them apart from other fast-food restaurants.

“Change it up as much as you want, or stick to your favourites. At Five Guys you always get exactly what you want.”

Steven’s podcast could have well been a ‘clickbait’ headline. However, the claim that Five Guys have supposedly become this successful without ANY marketing strategy in place feeds the idea that marketing is just paid advertising when in reality it’s so much more.

Five Guys is the most amazing example of the power of a good marketing strategy. They have gathered all the data and insight to know exactly where to spend their time, resource and budget which has led to the global success of the brand. This is only set to get bigger and better through their tactical plan and marketing metrics.

If you want to learn how to build your own marketing strategy for the business, you work for or your own business, our online marketing strategy course covers every pillar in detail including all the tools and templates you need.

Watch the Diary of a CEO podcast episode featuring John Eckburt, CEO of Five Guys, where they talked about how he built Five Guys, a business empire ‘WITHOUT ANY’ marketing.

Check out the debate in the comments on Lisa’s LinkedIn about the controversial statement that Five Guys built an empire without any marketing at all.