Fast food marketing

Picture of Tom Dougherty
Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

12 October 2020

Fast food marketing: Too often it’s just a temporary fix

My first reaction to seeing the McDonalds’ Travis Scott meal ad was, “What the…?” Fast food marketing can often be pretty wacky. So as someone not among Mr. Scott’s target audience, I simply wrote it off as another one-off for the nation’s largest fast food chain.

I was wrong…and right.

fast food marketingMcDonalds is continuing this type of fast food marketing by introducing the J Balvin Meal this week. Another meal at a low price “built” by a famous musician. Also, it turns out the Travis Scott meal was popular among a certain segment, especially in the rapper’s hometown of Houston and in Los Angeles.

Therefore, McDonalds is hoping the J Balvin Meal will achieve the same success.

There’s a few things to unpack here. For one, we at Stealing Share always tell clients to get out of their own way. Ignore your own biases. Look clear-eyed at your market and messaging.

In this case, I wrote the promotion off for two reasons. As an older white male, I had never heard of Travis Scott. And the history of fast food marketing suggests this isn’t a long-term solution.

“Being creative with your fast food marketing is always a good thing. But it means nothing without a meaningful brand.”

Fast food marketing only works with a meaningful brand

I should have gotten out of my own way with Mr. Scott. His fans believe their star rapper really does like the Quarter Pounder with cheese, bacon, onions and lettuce. Along with medium fries, BBQ sauce and a Sprite. It feels authentic to them.

But my instincts are still correct. Most of fast food marketing offers temporary bumps. Many of those in the market (maybe all) promote new menu offerings. Thinking it’ll get them into the next quarter with good results.

However, the smart fast food brands look to tomorrow as well. They understand promotions like these rarely create long-term preference. It’s still the meaning of the brand that does that.

McDonalds isn’t the market leader just because it owns many locations and comes up with an intriguing bit of fast food marketing every now and then. It’s because the brand is unique, standing for fun in a powerful way.

In fact, the reason the Travis Scott promotion worked was because a fun McDonalds brand fits with an animated version of a rapper extolling his favorite meal.  

The lesson? Being creative with your fast food marketing is always a good thing. But it means nothing without a meaningful brand.

See more posts in the following related categories: Fast Food advertising


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