McDonald’s readies biggest investment in McCafé

McDonald’s is looking to challenge high street coffee retailers such as rival Costa through its largest investment in its coffee offering, McCafé, to date.

The company is to launch “McCafé moments”, a partnership with Channel 4 that it hopes will establish it as a destination for premium beverages.

The ten-month collaboration will see 40 pieces of content aired that showcase a series of conversations between “real people” drinking McCafé beverages. The Gogglebox inspired clips will see them talking about what’s happening on their favourite Channel 4 programs, such as Location, Location, Location or Made in Chelsea.

Alistair Macrow, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of McDonald’s UK and Northern Europe, told Marketing Week he hopes the campaign will put McDonald’s front of mind when people are thinking about going for a “quality cup of coffee”. He describes its offering as  “upmarket, down-to-earth”.

“The opportunity that sits in the coffee market is well known throughout the UK,” Macrow says. “It’s a rapidly growing business and it has been for about 10 years, and we’re already a huge player in it.”

McDonald’s sold over 140 million cups of coffee, and was the biggest seller of traditional and non-specialty coffees, he claims.

According to Crest data from the first half of 2014 cited by McDonald’s it ranked second behind Costa for total coffee servings in the UK. However, many coffee drinkers are still likely to overlook McCafé when considering a cup of coffee, he adds.

“It’s not that we’re small, but too many of our coffee occasions are purely through convenience,” he adds. “We believe we can offer something which is very differentiated from the rest of the market…We can sell coffees that are just as good quality as anybody else on the high street in a way that is far more convenient, faster, and at an affordable price.

“I suspect that we will be investing more money in the premium beverage market in 2015 than anyone else,” he adds.

McDonald’s first began advertising its coffee in 2009, before introducing the McCafé brand in 2013. In 2014 it rebranded and expanded its coffee offering, which now features the likes of cappuccinos, lattes, mochas as well as flavour promotions. Seasonal one-offs aside, there will be no major additions to its offering.

“We cover 80 to 90 percent of what is actually bought in the UK,” Macrow says. “It’s not about offering 150 different variations. It’s about picking the ones that really make a different to our customers.”

Macrow says that one of the prerequisites of being successful in the coffee market is having the right in-store environment, something McDonald’s is looking to change through a “significant investment” in refurbishing its restaurants.

“We want to encourage more people to come and sit in our restaurants,” he says. “You can already go into over 100 of our restaurants in the UK where you can order food via a kiosk and sit and use one of our iPads while enjoying a coffee. That’s an environment that nobody else has managed to deliver at this point in time, and I think that will continue to set us aside.”

Meanwhile, Chris Braithwaite, agency principal for Channel 4, told Marketing Week that this is a first-of-its-kind partnership for the company, with a direct link to its programming having never been done at this scale.

“In terms of a spot innovation piece, it’s the biggest that we’ve ever done,” he says. “McDonald’s is a hugely important advertiser for Channel 4, and we like to think that we ourselves are an essential marketing partner for them as well.”

Braithwaite says the teams worked with the people behind the casting of Gogglebox to get “real people” in the spots, ultimately creating what he calls “watchable content that happens to be an advertising break”.

“[McDonald’s] is the nation’s biggest seller of coffee in terms of stores and we’re the nation’s biggest TV station,” he says. “There’s a sort of coming together there, a natural affinity.”

Macrow added: “90% of the UK’s population visits McDonald’s in the course of a year, so we needed to make sure we worked with a partner who had a similar reach, but also who created content that people talked about.”