McDonald’s McRib relaunch a product of social engagement strategy but return will be brief
McDonald’s decision to bring back the McRib stems from demand among fans on social media, a move in line with its engagement focus. However, those hoping the UK-born pork sandwich will become a permanent menu fixture will be disappointed, as the restaurant does not plan to keep the product on a long-term basis as it looks to remain true to its company-wide focus on core menu items.
McDonald’s is bringing back the McRib on New Year’s Eve following 20,000 requests on social media in the UK demanding its return, it says.
The barbecue pork sandwich, which was removed from menus in 2002 after being introduced in the UK in 1998, will launch across the company’s 1,200 UK stores at 10.30am on 31 December for a five-week period ending 3 February.
Steven Howells, head of food and beverage marketing at McDonald’s UK, told Marketing Week: “We wanted to show that we do listen to our customers, and we wanted to empower people to see something on the menu that they requested.”
Digital and social media will support the first phase of the campaign leading up to the launch in order to engage with the fans that brought the product back. The company’s Facebook page, which currently features a countdown to the launch, saw a reach of four million on its first post about bringing the product back.
Documentary-style content on McDonald’s social media channels will feature customers who have tried and loved the product in the past, some of whom still have memorabilia from its last stint on menus, creating what the marketing team call a “cult status” for the sandwich. McDonald’s also hosted an advanced preview of the McRib for food bloggers two weeks before the launch in order to drive excitement beyond the company’s network.
While this is the first crowd-sourced product return for the restaurant, it is the latest in a series of efforts by the company to improve the customer experience and allow fans to personalise their choices. The company hosted “My Burger” earlier this year, which allowed customers to build their own burger online for a chance to have their creations sold on the menu, and also announced plans to launch a global mobile app.
The restaurant is looking to target the current UK food trend towards barbecued foods as well as the evolving tastes of its customers by reducing the amount of salt in the sandwich’s sauce and using only Freedom Food-approved pork (sourced from RSPCA-approved farms).
However, the McRib is only back as a limited edition promotional item – after its five-week stint, Howells says another item will feature in its place.
“It’s about keeping food innovation at the forefront and allowing people to have something different on the menu,” Howells says. “If it’s successful, it’s possible we’ll bring it back for another promotional period, but we don’t see it as a core product. We’re not looking to put it on the menu forever.”
Last week, McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson announced plans to drop menu items in US stores in order to focus on core burgers and breakfasts. However, Howells says product innovation will continue to be a part of the UK’s restaurants.
“The core menu items are always there, but within the UK people are looking for food innovation and new reasons to visit the restaurants.”
The second phase of the campaign will see out of home media, radio and press accompany social and digital efforts.