That's why I have been watching the latest round of McDonald's commercials promoting their McCafe line of coffee drinks. Here is an example:
Rather than out-Starbucks Starbucks, which would clearly be a tough sell coming from McDonald's, they have positioned themselves as the anti-Starbucks. "We have great coffee drinks, but without all the smarmy hipper-than-thou trappings of you-know-who." McDonald's is going after a clear market of consumers who enjoy high-end coffee-based drinks, but who may not see themselves as elitist and who may in fact be uncomfortable in the higher-end Euro-cafe environment of a typical Starbucks cafe.
If McDonald's has done their research (and I would be surprised if they hadn't), they are positioning themselves to take a leadership role in a significant regular-guy/girl marketplace. The question is whether there are enough of these consumers to generate significant revenue and market share growth for McDonald's, which needs huge numbers in order to register on their radar.
Whether they are successful or not is yet to be seen, but it's a good example of clear brand positioning.