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McDonald’s Flaunts History of Pop Culture Cameos in Latest Meal Ploy

Published on Aug 15, 2023

McDonald’s Flaunts History of Pop Culture Cameos in Latest Meal Ploy
Marketing Dive
Marketing Dive

Dive Brief:

  • McDonald’s is kicking off a new menu promotion that draws on the fast food chain’s rich history of appearances in film, television and music, according to a news release
  • The As Featured In Meal, part of the Golden Arches owner’s Famous Orders platform, nods to McDonald’s references in media like “Seinfeld,” “Reality Bites,” “The Office” and more. The pop culture-oriented effort ladders into a tie-in with Marvel Studios’ second season of “Loki,” which premieres on Disney+ Oct. 6.   
  • Customers who scan Sweet N’ Sour Sauce packets that come with the meal can access exclusive Marvel content on Snapchat, with new releases dropping weekly during the promotional window. A streetwear collaboration and nostalgia-themed restaurant takeover round out the campaign. 

Dive Insight:

McDonald’s continues to align its brand around pop culture nostalgia with the As Featured In Meal, which is available starting Aug. 14. The strategy shows the chain expanding the range of its Famous Orders platform, which typically centers on the preferred meals of celebrities. Running in over 100 countries, this marks McDonald’s largest Famous Orders push to date, according to McDonald’s Global CMO and Head of New Business Ventures Morgan Flatley.

Famous Orders has been a success since its implementation in 2020. The custom meals usually don’t include new menu innovations, making them a low lift on the R&D end. Instead, they are comprised of a prefab selection of existing menu options that are meant to represent what stars like Cardi B and Offset, Mariah Carey or K-pop group BTS might pick up at the drive-thru.  

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Rather than leveraging A-list endorsements, the As Featured In Meal relies on consumer familiarity with McDonald’s references in pop culture. In an episode of “Seinfeld,” for instance, typically hapless George Constanza goes on a bad date that ends with his companion — the daughter of his unemployment counselor —  stating, “I haven’t had a Big Mac in a long time.” The campaign highlights a variety of McDonald’s cameos over time, from films like “The Fifth Element” and “Reality Bites” to the anime “The Devil Is a Part-Timer!” 

McDonald’s is using the backward-looking approach as a runway to its latest product tie-in with the second season of “Loki,” a time- and universe-hopping streaming series in the Marvel canon. On Aug. 30, a Brooklyn McDonald’s location will be outfitted with ‘80s memorabilia as part of the partnership with the Disney+ program. The experience lasts three days only.   

The meal itself gives consumers the choice between a 10-piece McNuggets, Quarter Pounder with Cheese or Big Mac paired with a medium fries, a medium soft drink and the recently revamped Sweet ‘N Sour Sauce, the latter of which carries codes that can be scanned to unlock exclusive Snapchat content from Marvel. Meals also come with an additional code that lets consumers purchase new merchandise developed in collaboration with London-based streetwear brand Palace. Palace on Aug. 18 is leading a takeover of the first U.S. McDonald’s location in Downey, California, which includes a pop-up shop for buying the co-branded goods. 

Creative was handled by Wieden + Kennedy New York, Alma, IW Group, Burrell and Boden (W+K is McDonald’s agency of record), while Publicis Groupe handled digital components of the campaign. Publicis Groupe also worked on paid media, along with Burrell, Navigation Blvd and Admerasia. The retail experience was led by The Marketing Store and Boxer helped design the packaging. 

McDonald’s is looking to build on a run of marketing that has bolstered sales with key young consumer groups like Gen Z. A campaign earlier this summer that celebrated the birthday of brand mascot Grimace became a viral sensation after TikTok users began posting horror parody videos of what happened to them after drinking a berry-themed shake attached to the effort. 

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McDonald’s saw U.S. sales rise 10.3% year-over-year in the second quarter, a bump it attributed to strengths in digital, delivery and culturally tapped-in marketing like the Grimace blitz, which now stands as one of the brand’s most socially engaged campaigns to date.

This article was written by Peter Adams from Marketing Dive and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive Content Marketplace. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected].