Promos and seasonal menu items. Golden eggs for the Golden Arches. Simple lessons for today’s marketing strategists.

Jeff Davidson

For 20 years now, McDonald’s has been making me feel like a 5-year-old, mostly with a simple variation on a popular board game. For me, when the “Monopoly is back” announcement hits the airwaves, my perception of America’s more prolific restaurant is immediately transformed from emergency road trip pit stop, into a must-see destination.
Sure, I know I’ve got a better chance of earning $1million as McDonald’s next CEO than winning the grand prize, but I’m overcome with the same anticipation and excitement whenever I see that double game piece on my extra large fry. And when I finally get home, peel back those stickers, and catch the first glimpse of a tiny blue rectangle, even though it’s probably Park Place, I still feel like I’m halfway to becoming the next McDonald’s millionaire. And to make matters better, I’ve also just won a medium drink.

Now, where do I put these world’s-smallest game pieces? Do I start a tiny stack inside my car console? Yes, that’s exactly what I do!  And I slide the little winners into my wallet, wedged in front of my credit cards. I know I probably won’t redeem a single piece (I usually buy value meals anyway). But I still feel like a kid holding his first happy meal prize. I feel like a champion. McDonald’s has made me happy, and I’ve grown closer to the brand. The real winner, of course, is McDonald’s.  And because there’s a 1:4 chance of winning a prize this year, I’m going to keep making them winners, coming back again and again until the promotion’s still running but the game cups and fry boxes are all gone.

The right promotion taps into the emotional side of the brand. With McDonald’s, Monopoly takes me back to my 5th birthday party—to Happy Meals, milkshakes, climbing on the Hamburglar, and chasing my sister through giant plastic tubes. For some people, it’s the Shamrock shake. For others, it’s the re-release of McRib. No one promotion will work for every customer. Some customers may gravitate toward all of them, and some may be completely indifferent, but successful ones elicit an emotional response, making the customer feel as though it’s been created just for him or her. And in a way, it has.

When you’re thinking about crafting your next promotion, first look back on what your company or client has done before. Spend time considering how customers interact with the brand. What makes them happy? What are they saying in social media? What keeps them coming back? Is there an opportunity to create something new that addresses their needs, or bring something back that they’ve really been missing? Build a whole campaign around just that. Give your loyal customers a reward. They deserve it. They made you who you are. And if you play it right, they’ll create a facebook page to celebrate you the way they celebrate the Shamrock shake.


Magnani is an experience design and strategy firm that crafts transformational digital experiences to delight users and deliver sustainable competitive market advantages for our clients.


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